THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 11 AUGUST, 2019
World Responds to Kashmir Crisis: China Warns, US Hedges Bets, Russia Extends Support
All ask India and Pakistan to keep peace
NEW DELHI: The world's governments are reacting slowly to the move by the Narendra Modi to revoke Article 370 and Article 35A of the Indian Constitution which had provided a special status and benefits to the erstwhile princely State of Jammu and Kashmir after it acceded to India in terms of the India Independence Act of 1935.
US President Donald Trump who had twice offered to mediate on the issue shortly before New Delhi moved to revoke the Acts, has personally not said a word as yet. The US State Department has taken a nuanced position even as China has issued a stern warning over the change of status of Ladakh to a Union Territory, and Russia has come out in full support.
The strongest criticism has come from the International Commission of Jurists with the mainstream Indian media being overtaken by the global media in covering the ground in Kashmir. Videos of protests have been carried widely by the media abroad, but not in India.
Article 370 was an enabling provision that defined which parts of the Indian Constitution would have jurisdiction over Jammu and Kashmir, which had adopted a separate state constitution for itself during the 1950s.
These two articles had defined the relationship of Jammu and Kashmir with India. Among some of the prominent features were the ban on outsiders owning property in Jammu and Kashmir; approval of the State Assembly necessary for any amendment of the Indian Constitution or any Indian laws before they could be made applicable to Jammu and Kashmir; a six year term of the State Assembly; the absence of the provision of a financial emergency; no powers to panchayats; no right to education etc.
The chart below gives the before and after status following the recent decision.
The changed status of the state would make Ladakh a Union Territory without a legislature on the lines of Pondicherry and Delhi before 1991, while Jammu and Kashmir would be a Union Territory with a legislature. PM Modi said that free and fair elections would be held soon and promised that under the new order industrial development in J&K would boost employment and improve the life of the citizens.
The move was preceded by a major security operation with additional security forces deployed in the state and a curtailing of all forms of communication including mobile phones and the internet. Most separatist leaders and mainstream politicians including former Chief Ministers of the State were arrested. Modi promised that the restrictions would soon be eased.
The international reaction to the move ranged from the cautious to the condemnatory. The strongest support came from Russia, the harshest condemnation came from the International Commission of Jurists. In a statement it said, “…the decision was a blow to rule of law.” It further said that the Indian government’s revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir “violates the rights of representation and participation guaranteed to the people” under the Indian constitution and in international law, and “is a blow to the rule of law and human rights in the state and in India…”
The ICJ went on to say the step was taken at a time when “Jammu and Kashmir was under the direct rule of the central government, and the state legislature was dissolved. As the government of Jammu and Kashmir is not empowered to discharge its functions, it has not been consulted, let alone agreed to the revocation”...
A spokesman for the UN Human Rights Commission said that there was "great concern" over the information blackout and that what had already been observed to be a pattern, was taken to a "new level" with the latest restrictions placed by India which "will exacerbate the human rights situation in the region". The spokesman said that "We are seeing again blanket telecommunications restrictions, perhaps more blanket than we have seen before, the reported arbitrary detention of political leaders and restrictions on peaceful assembly. The restrictions would prevent the people and their elected representatives from participating fully in democratic debate about the future status of Jammu and Kashmir.
The UN Secretary General commented on the developments expressing concern over the restrictions imposed in Kashmir and appealed for "maximum restraint" and urged India and Pakistan "to refrain from taking steps that could affect" the region's status.
The British Foreign Secretary said he had spoken to his Indian counterpart expressing concern about the situation and called for calm.
The Chinese Foreign Office spokesperson said that the Indian Government’s move as “unacceptable” and asked New Delhi to avoid actions that unilaterally changed the status quo. In a written statement the spokesperson called for a dialogue with Pakistan and indicated that the status of J&K was not a closed matter as far as the international community was concerned. “This issue is a legacy of history between India and Pakistan, which is also the consensus of the international community,” she said.
The Americans took a more nuanced approach. While American diplomats denied that the Trump administration had been informed by India in advance, the U.S. State Department said it was closely following events in Kashmir. Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus “We are concerned about reports of detentions and urge respect for individual rights and discussion with those in affected communities,” “We call on all parties to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Control.”
Interestingly while the OIC criticized the move and expressed support for Kashmiri self- determination the UAE declared that the recent action by the Indian government was an internal matter for India.
From the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia came a comment expressing concern and calling for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in accordance with the relevant international resolutions.
Malaysia also referred to the international resolutions. A press statement issued by the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Office said Malaysia would like to encourage all stakeholders to abide by the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions on occupied Kashmir towards the maintenance of international peace and security. It said Malaysia always believes that dialogues and consultations are the best routes to a peaceful and amicable solution to this long-standing issue.
Russia that responded only yesterday stated, “We proceed from the fact that the changes associated with the change in the status of the state of J&K and its division into two union territories are carried out within the framework of the Constitution of the Republic of India.” The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged both India and Pakistan to maintain peace.
In a telephone call to Pakistan's Army Chief, Iran's Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Mohammed Baqeri had said that India and Pakistan should avoid any hasty decision on the fate of the Kashmir region without regard to the peoples' will.
Pakistan had stopped trade and rail links with India and downgraded diplomatic ties sending back the Indian High Commissioner. While reiterating support for the Kashmiri right to self determination Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Foreign Minister were careful to stress that their country did not want war but would pursue all diplomatic channels to remedy the situation. Reports said that Pakistan was planning to approach the International Court of Justice.