In the weeks since the revoking of special status of Jammu & Kashmir, in response to Pakistan’s repeated attempts to internationalise the matter, India’s position has remained firm and unchanged: It is an internal issue. Indeed, the government’s decision to carve the state into two Union Territories, thus centralising its governance, could also be seen to have robbed Pakistan of agency and leverage in the Valley. The world has heard since August 5 about how Pakistan was using Article 370 to foment trouble in J&K, and that that was a pressing reason to do away with it. In this context, it is a little puzzling that National Security Advisor A K Doval, in remarks during a media interaction last week, has chosen to bring Pakistan back into the Kashmir discourse in a manner that appears to return to it some of that agency.
By linking the restoration of communication and removal of other restrictions in the blockaded Valley to “how Pakistan behaves”, the NSA appeared to suggest that the neighbour still holds crucial influence in Kashmir. And that the rights of people in the Valley, that they are entitled to as Indian citizens, would hinge upon the next steps taken in Islamabad or Rawalpindi. Not only does this contradict another assertion by him in the same media interaction — that he was “fully convinced that a majority of the Kashmiris totally support” the legal abatement of Article 370 — it also seemed to be at cross purposes with the government’s other efforts to present India as the sole arbiter of Kashmir’s destiny.
As India prepares to look the world in the eye with the right words on the continued communication shutdown in the Valley at the UN at the General Assembly and Human Rights Council, the messaging will be crucial. The NSA has said that the arrested politicians and activists would be released when “the environment conducive for the functioning of democracy is created”. It is not clear who he is addressing in that remark, but it would be fair to say that as it was the Centre that suspended all political activity in the Valley, it also has the responsibility to bring it back. It seems disingenuous to point to Pakistan at this juncture, in the aftermath of a momentous decision by New Delhi that has disrupted status quo in the Valley. According to NSA Doval’s assessment, there are 230 Pakistani militants waiting to infiltrate the Valley and create trouble. It should be the responsibility of the Army, with all the resources at its command, to ensure that they do not enter. But the sins of Pakistan cannot be a reason for punishing India’s own.