By using force to detain an Opposition delegation at Srinagar airport last weekend and compelling it to return to New Delhi, in the process also badly roughing up even women in the media group accompanying the top leaders, the government has sent out a message that things are going very poorly in Kashmir in the wake of ending J&K’s special status earlier this month.
This cannot but leave an unfavourable international impression and boost the cause of Pakistan and its main backer China as they attempt to paint New Delhi negatively, citing gross human rights violations in the wake of the Narendra Modi government altering J&K’s constitutional status without taking the state into confidence.
If the Opposition leaders from various parties under the leadership of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi had been accorded a due welcome by governor Satya Pal Malik, misgivings within the country and abroad may have abated, regardless of the legality of New Delhi’s constitutional act, which is before the Supreme Court. It is just possible that the Opposition team being permitted to move around may have acted as a balm for wounded feelings in Kashmir.
The thwarted trip of the Opposition leaders happened to be on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed meeting with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in France. Three times since July 22, Mr Trump has expressed the desire to “mediate” between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, calling the current situation “explosive”. This suits Islamabad perfectly.
At an informal meeting of the UN Security Council recently, Indian diplomacy succeeded to the extent of preventing a formal statement even as the participants — including the five permanent members: the United States, Russia, Britain France and China — expressed deep concern but urged New Delhi and Islamabad to settle the Kashmir issue peacefully through a bilateral dialogue, while the Modi government insists on no conversations until terrorism from Pakistani soil ceases.
It remains to be seen if the international community sees this as a sustainable proposition. If not, pressure is likely to mount on New Delhi. There is no doubt that Kashmir has once more been internationalised due to the government’s short-sightedness in making questionable constitutional changes.
The short shrift given by the government to the Opposition team is likely to feed the impression that New Delhi is trying to hide the reality of Kashmir from its own people. Collecting endorsements and accolades from countries not exactly known for their democratic conduct, and in which brute police methods are the norm, is unlikely to dispel concerns, and may give a handle to the Western powers to discomfit India.
News reports from the Valley suggest a reign of repression persisting for three weeks, with pellet injuries to civilians caused by the security forces almost on a daily basis, and a communications and information blackout accompanying a total shutdown....