Except a few, all local pro-India parties have come together on one political issue – to fight New Delhi’s unilateral decision to take away the special status of Jammu & Kashmir and downgrade it into two Union Territories. It remains to be seen whether the regional parties are successful in putting any political pressure on New Delhi. However, to actually “Cross the Rubicon”, i.e., to constitutionally restore the pre-August 5 status, will require taking the bull by the horns.
The question arises: how the regional parties can aggressively pursue their aim politically. If they are committed to regaining the lost constitutional status, they need to go to great lengths together irrespective of party differences. Politically they may rely on three strategic means through which they can put India under pressure:
1. Democratic and political means
2. Civil disturbance or civil unrest
3. Through China
BJP’s laundry list of achievements and missed targets post-August 2019 and an ingrained belief that the solution of Kashmir problem lies in squeezing Kashmir politics into the ‘straitjacket’ of national politics could prove to be highly misplaced. New Delhi thought that in one stroke it had downed the shutters of parties like NC and PDP. There is no doubt that in the present political situation the Indian state is in full command of territory in Kashmir, but the BJP as a party has politically failed to create an organisational set-up in the valley that could defeat the NC and PDP in the coming political battle. Despite many opportunities, the BJP could not reach out to alienated people and completely failed in attracting an intellectual class and politically wise leaders to muster public faith in strengthening the saffron grid in the valley. The few who are struggling socially and financially for being BJP’s flag bearers in the valley, and who are risking their lives for creating the ground for the saffron party, have been disowned by their own state party’s machinery. Amid threats, hate and social media fury for their politics, they have become mere pawns in the power politics. It is obvious that winning the constitutional battle for Article 370 would be like a dream come true for the Gupkar signatories, but their election battle against BJP would be an easy task. Though people of Jammu and Kashmir have been politically disappointed and formation of the Peoples Alliance is no pleasant surprise to them, but the majority will still prefer the NC and PDP against the BJP.
The BJP believed that the regional parties’ connivance in Kashmir permitted separatists to build a false narrative and anti-national propaganda. Besides this, the politicians and separatists in Kashmir were also instrumental in facilitating a paranoid psychology that undermined faith in the administrative system, which ultimately resulted in misappropriation of public wealth and increased number of scams. Wiping away Jammu & Kashmir’s special status was an attempt to equate mainstream leaders with separatists. Incarcerating several political leaders under various provisions of law, including the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, had brought them under one roof. Although a general opinion was created that the NIA had cracked the whip on separatists, the BJP government in Delhi through ACB, CBI and ED also cracked the whip on mainstream leaders and bureaucrats involved in various scams in Kashmir. The BJP government was projected as one that would clean up the administration, but such hopes were dashed when no consistent approach was adopted. The BJP’s complete failure in the valley may also stem from the honourable release of regional leaders with the impression that they were innocents and their incarceration was a human rights violation. In the backdrop of incarceration and complete lockdown, the BJP government was actually fearing internal disturbance or civil unrest.
Meanwhile, China and Pakistan have formed a formidable strategic alliance through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Pakistan now being satirically called ‘colony of China’. The CPEC is not only an economic corridor but also a geostrategic corridor that has the weight to alter geopolitics of this region. Especially in view of the world being distracted in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, China is playing a “Great Game” in the Himalayas to achieve superpower status and the flashpoints at Galwan, Depsang Valley, the Fingers area, and Pangong Tso are all of tactical importance. Possession of these points will allow the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) of China to find a firm base for subsequent operations. In addition, China would like to use the Pakistan army as a pincer in conjunction with its attacks meant to cut India’s routes of maintenance from the west and east before winter sets in. This will box the Indian army during the winters and make it vulnerable to the PLA’s artillery fire if war is triggered.
The CPEC provides easy transportation of military hardware to Pakistan by road rather than the sea route. When Pakistan gave Shaksgam valley to China in 1963 (Sino-Pakistan Frontier Agreement), Pakistan brought China into the Kashmir dispute. As of now, China has already built 36 kms of road in Shaksgam valley and most probably the PLA will link the G-219 (Lhasa-Kashgar) highway to the Karakoram pass through the Shaksgam pass. This will enable the PLA to put pressure on the DBO (Daulat Beg Oldi) defences from the north. Obviously, the PLA is not comfortable with the Indian defences so close to their highways. PLA’s surprise encroachment in April/ MAY 2020 was obviously to seize the friction points along the 1147 kilometers of Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh and to impose the 1960 claim line by this dubious occupation. Once the DBO is won by the PLA, the route to Siachen via Saser La Murga-Sansoma (Base on Nubra River) can be reached in quick time. It can be clearly said that the current standoff was initiated by PLA with a similar purpose as that of the Kargil misadventure by the then president of Pakistan, Parvaiz Musharraf. It would be interesting to see what Pakistan could gain from the India-China tensions. Beijing would wish to exercise the option of inciting Pakistan to initiate a conventional skirmish against India. China’s intent has always been to divert Indian military capability towards managing Pakistan, providing the latter with a sustained supply of China’s defence equipment. While Pakistan will continue to intensify its proxy war and anti-India propaganda, it may exercise three options:
1. Pakistan would highlight its posture of victimhood and strengthen the narrative of its capability and willingness to defeat India.
2. Pakistan is likely to push for more Chinese equipment in its army, despite its economic challenges.
3. Pakistan will continue to escalate the nuclear threat to push for the Kashmir agenda and to attract global attention.
Political analysts believe the “unification of opposite political parties” can be of significant importance and with the Peoples Alliance the message that is being disseminated in political circles will have its own impact in time. Besides, the alliance would be of great significance if the parties are sincere, patient and adopt a different and consistent political approach. In such circumstances, tough approach will be adopted against them to break the alliance, just like the regional political parties were trying hard to break the back of the separatist camp during their respective regimes. What is of utmost significance is the extent to which the regional parties will stands firm in their resolve before Delhi. Political analysts say the Peoples Alliance, if it persists, can become a headache for New Delhi because India’s deep state knows that this alliance has race horses that could sustain themselves a long way. So, much effort will be made by New Delhi to break this alliance.
—The writer is a journalist. [email protected]