The contours of the Kashmir move

The government has defended its twin decisions to revoke operative portions of Article 370 of the Constitution and dividing Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories as “internal policy” that warrant no international comment. While the Prime Minister’s moves have a domestic basis, their manner, or “Modi’s vivendi” as it were, must be studied in their broader global context.
The U.S.-Afghan factor
The immediate context is the future of Afghanistan and what the deal between the United States and Pakistan for Afghanistan will mean for India. According to reports, an assessment by Indian intelligence agencies that there would be an imminent settlement was what triggered the discussion within the Modi government about a response that would ensure India was not overlooked.The U.S.’s deal for the return of the Taliban to Afghanistan’s mainstream has three specific dangers for New Delhi. First, the deal would most certainly derail the Afghanistan elections planned for September 28, or make their results irrelevant. India’s stakes in a democratic Afghanistan go beyond the process since every one of the 17 presidential ticket aspirants is a leader with ties to India. Second, a deal will bring the Taliban, whose leaders owe allegiance to Islamabad and Rawalpindi, into the central power structures and institutions in Kabul. Third, intelligence estimates indicate that after the deal, U.S. troops will not “zero out” completely but continue to maintain between three and five military bases. In the past, America’s dependence on Pakistan for supply routes and security guarantees led the U.S. seeking concessions from India on Kashmir. The U.S. President’s comments in July, during a media interaction with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan that the U.S. counts on Pakistan to “extricate” it from Afghanistan, accompanied by an offer to mediate on Kashmir, set alarm bells ringing in Delhi and dictated the timing of the recent moves. Facing a fast-closing window of opportunity to consolidate its position in Jammu and Kashmir, the government chose to present the U.S. and Pakistan with a fait accompli before a deal was concluded.
The Kashmir line
In the Kashmir case, the government’s actions, which have included the pouring in of troops, a clampdown on communications and the arrest of local leaders, have all been justified through the expressions of euphoria the decisions have elicited among its supporters nationwide. The populist assessment is that any negative consequences — violence in Kashmir, resistance in Jammu and Ladakh to the freeing up of property rights, for example, or the larger impact of worsening India-Pakistan ties on the Kartarpur corridor, Kulbhushan Jadhav’s fate, and trade and transport arrangements — will not hurt the government as they were authorised by “the will of the people”.
The prevailing narrative is that the government’s Kashmir decisions have finally allowed ‘Realpolitik’ to prevail over the woolly-headed idealism of the past that has not benefited the nation in all these years. Furthermore, an influx of investments and non-Kashmiri residents into the Valley will “normalise” it and usher in an age of prosperity. While the term Realpolitik is used today in a positive sense, it is important to remember the context in which its earliest proponent, Athenian general Thucydides introduced it, In the ‘History of the Peloponnesian War’; here he states: “Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can, the weak suffer what they must.”

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