Modi takes control in Kashmir

Indian troops in Kashmir © TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images
New Delhi has taken back powers over Kashmir

Tensions are escalating in the disputed Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir as he central government revokes its autonomy.

India has “reopened old wounds inflicted at the founding of the modern Indian state” by revoking long-standing constitutional provision that granted autonomy and other special protections to Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, says Amy Kazmin in the FT. India is also downgrading Jammu and Kashmir from the status of a fully fledged state to a so-called union territory, giving New Delhi more control over the local administration, including its police. Modi’s government argues that the moves will “tackle legal backwardness in a region living in the past and to make the government work better for its citizens” and that they will lead “to a burst of development”.

Remaking India in Modi’s image

Nonsense, says Mihir Sharma on Bloomberg. Private investment in India has collapsed to a 14-year low. If the government can’t get the private sector to invest in “peaceful, relatively developed parts of India”, what makes officials think businesses will rush to invest in “one of the most militarised and troubled parts of the world”? Talk of “global connectivity” is laughable – “a single highway leads from Kashmir’s capital through the mountains to the rest of India and, following a terror attack at the beginning of the year, that road is now monopolised by the military”.

By forcibly cutting off communications with the rest of India, the Modi government has “ground down and humiliated Kashmiris” as part of a project “to remake the entirety of India in accordance with Modi’s ideology”, says Kapil Komireddi in The Guardian. Modi is not only fulfilling “a long-standing Hindu nationalist yearning to domesticate the region’s dissenting Muslim majority”, but also using them “as an example to other Indian states, a demonstration that nobody is immune from his untrammelled authority”. With organised political opposition to Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party “being meticulously wiped out”, we can be certain that what has happened in Kashmir “will be repeated elsewhere”.

Modi’s move is also likely to enrage Pakistan, which claims parts of Kashmir, says The New York Times. The territory has “driven India and Pakistan to war” on several occasions, which has left its residents “trapped in a low-intensity conflict” between a few hundred young militants and tens of thousands of Indian troops. Pakistan’s prime minister has “lashed out” at Modi, accusing him of seeking “to establish a state that represses all other religious groups”. Yet Pakistan is hardly blameless: it has a “long history” of covertly backing militant groups inside the Indian-administered areas of Kashmir.

With troops gathering on the de-facto border between Indian and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir, “the chances of serious escalation are increasing by the day”, says The Times. Relations between the two countries are “particularly raw” since the death of 40 Indian paramilitary police in a suicide bombing in February. Modi needs to consider whether he wants to go down in history as a “modernising peacemaker”, or as a “leader willing to risk regional security for the dubious ambitions of his nationalist sympathisers”.