Everyday life stands still in Jammu and Kashmir, where shops, schools and offices remain closed. The anger among the Kashmiris over being deprived of their state’s autonomous status and then being humiliated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is visible from the fact that even in districts where no curfew has been imposed by the Indian troops, the local population is not resuming daily activities.
Perhaps Modi’s government has calculated the risk associated with repealing Articles 370 and 35A of the constitution and will not allow any insurgency from across the border, the part of Kashmir that is controlled by Pakistan.
In Pakistan, the pressure on the military is rising with each passing day. Many people want it to respond to India and start a war, while Prime Minister Imran Khan, with no democratic and political credibility under his belt, seems helpless to convince the world that Modi has left no option for Pakistan but to accept the human-rights abuses in Kashmir.
Kashmir remains the sole justification for the existence of the large military force in Pakistan and for spending most of the national budget on defense. Since Modi has changed the status of J&K from an autonomous state to a union territory, the military leadership in Pakistan is left with no excuses, and it is finding it difficult to justify why it is silent and not helping the Kashmiri Muslims by waging a short-scale or proxy war.
It is difficult to convince even the educated people in Pakistan who are fed up with the narratives of jihad and acquiring Kashmir with the might of the gun that times have changed. Pakistan in the late 1980s and 1990s supported insurgency in India, but that was a different time. Now the world has denounced the jihadi organizations once considered strategic assets of Pakistan to liberate Kashmir.
Technological advances like drones and surveillance security systems also make its difficult to launch a massive insurgency in the Indian side of Kashmir. Then there is the diplomatic cost to be paid for this type of adventure, as the world will assume that Pakistan is not serious about eliminating extremist organizations from its soil. So there is hardly any chance that Pakistan will indulge in a proxy war, and waging a direct war is not the answer either, as the longer such a war is fought the weaker the economy will become. Pakistan’s diplomatic options are also limited as even Muslim states like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are awarding Modi with medals and do not want their relations with India to be spoiled over the Kashmir conflict. This leaves the military establishment of Pakistan in a catch-22 situation.
However, there is no smooth sailing for New Delhi either as far as Kashmir is concerned. If the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is assuming that Kashmiris will surrender to their fate, then it is mistaken. There will come a day when the BJP government will lift the curfew or the communication channels that are currently blocked will be reopened, and then there will surely be backlash from the Kashmiris.
One can easily predict that the BJP government will try to crush dissent and protests in Kashmir in the near future, but the more the Kashmiris protest, the more New Delhi will use force, and the Kashmir issue will gain more prominence around the globe. It is not possible for India to suppress the fundamental human rights of Kashmiris for long, as even if the world because of its economic and geopolitical interests silently watches the atrocities in Kashmir, the backlash from Kashmiris themselves will not be easily controlled by the BJP government.
Perhaps Modi is making the same mistake that Pakistan did under the regime of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. Modi’s Hindutva narrative is also pushing India, the largest democracy in the world, into a state where extremism is no longer considered a threat to the existence of the country’s social fabric. Zia, in trying to destabilize India, created a narrative based on religious hatred and nationalism against India, and as a result Pakistani society is still facing the impact of those measures. It is still surrounded by extremist minds and narratives and it will take decades of hard effort to get rid of fanatics and extremist mindsets in Pakistani society. So India right now repeating the same mistake, which means that it will need time for damage control, and who knows what kind of price it will pay as a result?
At the moment New Delhi has the edge as it has taken the initiative by merging Kashmir with the rest of India. While Pakistan is currently focusing on a weak diplomatic campaign against India, since there are no protests in Indian Kashmir the pressure on Pakistan’s military is not that stiff, but the few demonstrations by the Kashmiris will put the military in Pakistan under immense pressure to wage war against India.
How the military establishment will handle this pressure remains to be seen. One thing, however, is evident – both New Delhi and Islamabad need to do some soul-searching. Islamabad needs to consider why it has been isolated globally, and it is not difficult to see that the rotten narrative of warmongering against self-created enemies and by fighting proxy wars for Arabs and the US for dollars and Saudi riyals the establishment did not let intellectual growth take place in society.
By not allowing the political discourse to flourish naturally, the establishment virtually left the doors closed for any diplomatic credibility. The rotten narratives of the state of Pakistan being part of one Muslim nation, or ummah, and of liberating Kashmir and Palestine on the might of guns, are gradually imploding with the passage of time, and the other narratives about democracy being evil and responsible for Pakistan’s woes and of self-created enemies conspiring against Islamabad will be busted soon, as in the century of knowledge and technology it is almost impossible to survive with these kinds of senseless narratives.
New Delhi on the other hand needs to realize that by bringing patriotism and religion into politics and to justify inhuman acts against Kashmiris it is gradually turning into an extremist state instead of a secular one. India progressed because democracy and secularism prevailed there, but under the BJP it is becoming a state where only a follower of the ruling party is allowed to live and dissenting voices are unpatriotic and foreign agents.
The fascist methods of the BJP are similar to those of the puppet government in Islamabad under Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Both Modi and Imran Khan are narcissists and want to crush dissent, and to get the desired result will play the religion or patriotism card to any extreme. The saner voices in India should learn from the mistakes Pakistan has committed, and they need to show resistance toward the inhuman steps taken by Modi. Likewise, it is time for the establishment in Pakistan to ditch its obsolete narratives of self-created and imaginary conspiracies and let the political process prevail on its own so elected representatives can maintain new state narratives based on peace and good diplomatic ties.
The human-rights violations committed in both countries are not the examples either Pakistanis or Indians want to teach their future generations. As far as Kashmiris are concerned their fate remains in their own hands, not in the hands of New Delhi or Islamabad. The stronger the reaction and resistance by Kashmiris the more difficult it will be for the Modi government to sustain pressure. Whatever happens to Kashmir, both New Delhi and Islamabad need to realize that Kashmiris are not guinea pigs, nor were they born to become the subjects of the vested interests of either capital.