01.10.2019 Author: Vladimir Terehov

On Latest Developments after Scrapping Article 370 of India’s Constitution


Consequences of the de facto removal of the essence of Article 370 of India’s Constitution on 5 August are becoming one of the key topics of the Big Game (BG). Something that is no longer merely probable but certain.

Hence, variously framed analyses published in the New Eastern Outlook on this topic are invariably becoming a fixture in this journal. The same is true for articles on the situation on the Korean Peninsula, in and around Taiwan, in the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Greater Middle East, i.e. all of the most volatile parts of the Indian and Pacific Ocean where the epicenter of global processes is shifting from the Euro-Atlantic region.

The act of de facto revoking Article 370 itself can be compared to a sudden (which is important to highlight) fall of a heavy stone into the sea of global political processes and issues. The only difference is that the height of waves produced as a result has not diminished with time. Moreover, there remains a possibility that they will transform into a tsunami, which will obliterate everything in its path.

Therefore, for now, there are no reasons for the author of this article to change his assessment of this step, which he views as a strategic mistake made by the leadership of India (a friend of the Russian Federation) that could result in the gravest consequences for it, and both its internal and external politics.

The issue is not only (or perhaps not so much) that the relations between India and Pakistan almost instantaneously deteriorated to reach a dangerously low point. And both of these nations are actual nuclear powers whose arsenal has been mentioned in various contexts and on more than one occasion in New Delhi as well as Islamabad. The problem is that the current situation is becoming influential in the BG, thus forcing its main participants (first and foremost the United States and the PRC) to make significant adjustments to their strategies, which limits their maneuverability. They are compelled to take “forced moves”, which only worsen the overall atmosphere of the game.

Beijing simply could not ignore the cries for help of its de facto ally Pakistan “SOS! Thieves!”. Hence, at PRC’s initiative the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held consultations on the Kashmir issue, but it was a closed door session and neither of the key parties to the conflict, i.e. India and Pakistan, were present.

As expected, New Delhi reacted to this latest development negatively, as was evidenced by the fact that India requested Beijing postpone the visit of its Foreign Minister Wang Yi, which had been scheduled for 9 September.

Reputable newspaper Times of India published an article that advises Beijing to stop concerning itself with consequences of removal of Article 370 from India’s Constitution, and instead focus on the issues in its own volatile regions, such as Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and Hong Kong.

It is probably no accident that the long-standing issue of India’s enormous trade deficit with China (in excess of $50 billion) is being brought to the forefront now. There have been reports on the presence of a number of Chinese navy ships in the Indian Ocean, which are being monitored by Indian navy’s maritime reconnaissance aircraft, P-8I.

There was nothing truly new in these publications, since Chinese ships have been spotted in various parts of the Indian Ocean from time to time and their movements have been tracked by India’s vessels as well as planes for a number of years now. Still, we are being reminded about such occurrences now

In other words, there is no doubt that the act of revoking Article 370 did have a negative effect on the relationship between the two Asian giants. At present, it is hard to say how long-lasting or influential it will be.

In the meantime, the world’s leading player is at a loss. It appeared as if the United States was about to extricate itself from a sticky situation and the need to choose between the key regional ally during the Cold War (Pakistan) and its new and especially crucial at this time “strategic partner” (India). Washington should have felt more optimistic on account of the results of the official visit of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan to the United States two weeks prior to India taking the step being discussed in this article. We would like to reiterate that this act caused an unprecedented rise in tensions between India and Pakistan and messed up Washington’s “cards”.

The situation only became worse after Donald Trump’s clumsy public attempt to reconcile the differences between these two nations, which aroused open ire in the Parliament of India. The US Department of State was then forced to explain what its President actually meant.

In the meantime, Donald Trump finds himself in yet another serious predicament because of (seemingly unavoidable) meetings with Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, who are arriving in New York for the scheduled Session of the United Nations General Assembly. It is fairly clear what these two nations will say about each other during this event.

The situation the American President finds himself in is further exacerbated by the fact that he had accepted an invitation (after all it would have been unwise for him to refuse it on account of the upcoming elections) from a vast and influential Indian community in the United States to a grand event, called “Howdy, Modi!” to be held at a stadium in Houston.

There, he will have to again say something in public, which both of US “allies” (but enemies to each other as mentioned earlier) will be attentively following from their respective capitals. In order to avoid any more “clarifications” by the US Department of State, it would be best to prepare the speech beforehand (with the help of an expert advisor) and for Donald Trump to learn it by heart. Practicing it in front of the mirror would not hurt either.

As for the state of the relationship between India and Pakistan, the outlook is very bleak indeed. In the middle of September, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of both of these countries made more contentious statements.

India’s Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar once again maintained that talks about the current relationship with Islamabad could only focus on “Pakistan controlled Kashmir” (PoK) and how India would get physical jurisdiction over it. In the meantime, his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the “unilateral action of revoking special autonomy of Indian controlled Kashmir” had given a “turning point in the just struggle of people of Kashmir for their right to self-determination.”

We can confidently forecast that both nations will take additional measures to strengthen their defenses. In fact, India is already doing so. We are first of all referring to using a more centralized approach to running India’s armed forces and also a plan to spend a whopping $130 billion on modernizing the military in the next 5 to 7 years. Merchants in death can now rub their hands with glee.

Still, we would like to once again reiterate that revoking Article 370 seems counterproductive when it comes to the ability to maintain a (comparatively) stable situation in the region and for India itself.

First of all, the Kashmir issue is de facto becoming more international in scope, which is something that New Delhi has always tried to prevent from happening. If, earlier, only Pakistan searched for help in resolving this conflict abroad, currently the Indian leadership is also seeking such aid. This explains why Subrahmanyam Jaishankar thanked Donald Trump, in the aforementioned statement, for his acceptance of the invitation to attend the event in Houston. Before the upcoming meeting with the US President, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has “stepped up his efforts to iron out trade differences with the USA.”

Nowadays, it is not only Islamabad that is counting its supporters at United Nations Security Council sessions and in the UN Human Rights Council, New Delhi is doing it too. Hence, these two respectable nations are now stooping to the level of Russia’s quarrelsome neighbor (Ukraine) during various international events.

Secondly, signs have appeared which indicate that the aforementioned decision may result in an exacerbation of internal issues in this highly complex nation. It seems that in India’s Kashmir there will be a need for a military and police presence for quite some time to come.

All in all, it is not yet justifiable to give any positive assessment whatsoever of the situation after Article 370 was removed from India’s Constitution.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.