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Where did the diplomacy go in Kashmir?

Saeed Husain

Political leaders jailed, communication services blocked, curfews imposed, extra soldiers deployed and a constitution suspended. Welcome to the next global displacement.

In an utter lack of diplomatic principles, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. This article gave provisions to residents of the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to live under its own constitution, with the Indian center (New Delhi) still possessing legislative powers in areas of foreign affairs, defense and communications. Article 35(A), now also abrogated, had allowed the definition of permanent residents in the vale. Through 35(A), only Kashmiri residents could purchase land and access state ben- efits in the region, with non-perma- nent residents disallowed to do so.

Since the abrogation, there is now almost the undeniable certainty of the religious and ethnic makeup of Kashmir changing. Residents will be forced to deal with new waves of Indian people moving in and for some this might lead to leaving the land of their ancestors behind. A culture stands to be slowly lost, its rights eroded.

Then there is Pakistan, which lays claim to Kashmir since it is a Muslim majority state in limbo since the British left in 1947. For those who are not aware, the India-Pakistan border is one of the most militarized on the entire planet. Border skirmishes occur far too often, and claimed ownership of Kashmir has led these two countries to war before.

With a political landscape in such contention, it seems bizarre that Modi would even attempt to add fuel to the flames. This situation being a delicate one is perhaps a diplomatic way to put it. With two of the most populous countries of the world, both having nuclear warheads, claiming Kashmir as their own, this has the massive potential to turn very ugly.

One of the most damning parts of this entire situation has been the fla- grant disregard of diplomacy. To announce such a radical measure without warning, or any discussion even in its own parliament, India has mirrored what the British did in 1947 with the division of what was formerly known as British India. This was one of the last times state geography was so vehemently altered in the region, leading to the creation of India and Pakistan with little respect given to the anthropological intrica- cies of where the border was laid. What resulted was a mad scramble in which families and individuals tried to get on the side with the religious majority they believed in. In the age of no-fast-paced-media back then, figures remain unconfirmed still today, with deaths believed to be between 200,000 to two million. Dis- placement, as can be imagined, was in the millions. Today, Kashmiris are being forced to decide what to do.

With the current situation, the silence from global actors is deafening. Blocking out all modes of communication and the imposition of curfews is nothing short of some of the world’s worst human rights atrocities. Imagining the feelings of people living in the valley and their friends and families outside, is incredibly difficult. Imagine not be- ing able to know the plight of your loved one for a month. This is what Kashmiri families are going through during these times, including right this moment.

Finally, what has happened in Kashmir is perhaps hardly surprising in this era of strongmen. Nationalist tendencies that have gripped the world in the guise of Trump, Modi, Khan, Bolsonaro and Duterte, have ridiculed democratic values. It is now up to those who still value democra- cy to rise and call out against populist movements that try to curb the freedom of individuals worldwide. For now, the world still awaits news from Kashmir.

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