The step of Narendra Modi government on August 5, abrogating the Article 370 of Jammu and Kashmir, is going to alter the internal and external politics of the country for at least the next fifty years. Congress, PDP, NC, JKPC and the entire opposition was caught unawares, but perhaps, the Modi government started to prepare for it, as it took its first step, when it banned Jamaat-e-Islami in J&K (Feb 28) and thereafter dithered to hold simultaneous assembly elections in J&K, when PDP-BJP government had ended way back (June 19, 2018). The abrogation was well on the cards but Modi panicked and jumped the gun as US President Donald Trump announced twice (July 23&August 2) that Modi had wanted him to mediate on Kashmir issue, which Modi did not deny and answered by annulling Article 370. Pakistan has asked our ambassador to leave Islamabad and also to snap all bilateral trade with India which India has asked to review. Trump is silent then. Modi conferred Ladakh UT status which has irked China. UN has urged both India and Pakistan to exercise maximum restraint and cited Shimla Agreement which states that Kashmir is a bilateral issue.
Narendra Modi when straddled to power on May 23, the political pundits had gone into a spree by attributing Modi’s spectacular run, across the whole world in his first stint, to make India become a center stage in the comity of nations, making Indians so proud that even a ‘daily-wage labourer ’ in UP was galvanised , by the packaging of foreign-policy into domestic politics, what to say of educated Indians who all rallied to make it to Modi government 2.0. As after all, Modi went on to strike inside Balakot, no wonder, AS Dulat, former RAW chief had called Pulwama as a gift to BJP before polls.
How our foreign policy was going awry, before August 5, as it is too early to encapsulate the implications and repercussions of the move, but what ought to be known, is to revisit the Sri Lanka Ex President Mahinda Rajpaksa curt statement when he had said ‘No’ to our NSG troops from landing into Sri Lanka (April 28) in the aftermath of the disastrous Easter Bombings. Big brother was brushed aside. But, why would then Modi re-consider his such an early a visit to Sri Lanka after visiting Maldives (June 8). As if Rakpaksa did not bring enough disdain to our security forces but Modi was so foregone in his ‘neighbourhood-first’ policy that he met Rajpaksa too! In Maldives Modi got the highest honour ‘Nishan-Izzuddin’, but no sooner he addressed the Maldivian parliament, Maldivian MP Ahmed Thoriq boycotted and left for outside “to protest the harassment and inhumane actions committed against Muslims in India” something which Thoriq had announced before Modi’s arrival. Maldives has supported India on Article 370.
Do we remember the Manmohan Singh Sharm Al Sheikh (July 20, 2009) fiasco in which India’s complicity in Baluchistan had come on radar and BJP had then made all hell let loose over it. But, Modi per se took a chance to bolster for Baluchistan freedom movement from the ramparts of Red Fort (Aug 15, 2016), how his government will now comprehend as BLA has been designated a terrorist-organisation by India’s strong ally US (July 2). Notwithstanding BJP ally Shiv Sena exhortation to now take POK and Baluchistan. Are our hawks still to pander into staking a Baluchistan government in exile in India?
Closely on the heels was Bishkek SCO visit by Modi (June 13) and our media houses were gaga as to how Modi outsmarted Pakistan PM Imran Khan ‘staying together for nine hours’ and with only ‘a formal handshake’, something which has been corroborated by Pakistan PM Imran Khan (August 6) that India was not interested into talking to Pakistan and what he suspected got proved, but what baffled everyone was that our doyen of foreign leaders was left out alone in an odd hotel Orion, 30 kms away from Presidential Palace where all other SCO dignitaries were stationed. Why was Modi left lonely, may be perhaps, he was perceived to be ‘quite-more’ of a US representative. There are after all no ‘free-lunches’ in diplomacy.
It can be easily understood the tumult India must have had when whatever that had inveigled between Modi and Trump at Osaka (June 27), only a month later was swiveled by Trump, as he has told Imran Khan ( July 23) that Modi wanted Trump to mediate on Kashmir, which was vehemently denied by Jaishankar Prasad and Rajnath Singh. How Kashmir is now to be presaged, at international level is what has to seen. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi visited China to mobilise support on Kashmir and now Jaishankar Prasad is also to head to China on August 11.
The Indian betrayal of Iran is almost full circle, as Rouhani may not have as yet convalesced, after he had rushed Javad Zarif to meet Sushma Swaraj (May 14) , on the trauma Iran was under, as India has stopped all gas imports from May 2 onwards on outright US dictates. The Ufa, Russia meet of Rouhani and Modi in 2015 turned to be hogwash. Interestingly, it was India which wilted and not China which is also one of the largest importer of Iranian gas. It is construed that India did so out of US support to designate Azhar Masood as a global-terrorist (May 2). Chabahar Port ambitions have now all been floored as India would invest only in double figures (Cr), an amount which equals to any house in Connaught Place. So much so for US but on the contrary US is branding India as a ‘tariff king, if India responses with counter-tariffs on US products sale in India and advises India to buy US weaponry to balance its trade figures. This is after upping the ante on India going ahead with Russian S-400 missile defense system but instead to conform to US Patriot Advanced Capability-3 systems. How India will streamline if US goes ahead with a war against Iran can be anyone’s guess. Our hardliners are already clamouring for a regime-change in Iran.
There hasn’t as yet been even a straightjacket response from the belligerent Hindutva government as Sri Lanka launched its first ever satellite by naming it as Ravana-1 (June 19). This attempt is akin to provoking a war with India particularly when this present dispensation has come to office in the name of Lord Rama, who had killed Ravana-the evil, and had established Ram Rajya. The fact of the matter is that the two political forces in Sri Lanka, the Dravidian Tamils and Sinhalese Buddhists revere Ravana with the same rigour and the analogy of this attempt goes back to millenniums and proves that nothing much has changed.
What will be the way out for US to finally step out of Afghanistan is getting muddy, but India for sure has been asked to walk-out, as US, China, Russia and Pakistan special envoys met in Beijing (July 11) to hammer out a joint-statement for the final settlement in Afghanistan for peace and stability. The Indian efforts to rebuild Afghanistan, in the past two-decades have suddenly drawn cold feet, perhaps India should have rightly observed that Pakistan has legitimate interests in Afghanistan the same way India has in Nepal. Hard times for India may be unfolding with Afghanistan under Taliban going the China way but if the situation escalates over Kashmir, then, US might have second-thoughts over final withdrawal.
Things even in Nepal does not paint a rosy picture as the Indian economic blockades of Nepal (1989 & 2015) still haunt Kathmandu. Nepal knows it well that India badly needs its waters and that Indians send billions of rupees from Nepal as remittances and considers that India needs Nepal more than vice-versa. With the Indian applecart having been badly affected in Afghanistan now what New Delhi desperately wants is to keep China at bay in Nepal. Analysing the Nepal media it becomes amply clear that Nepal does not want to become a RAW republic as reports are agog that RAW chief Samant Goel, on his recent Kathmandu visit(July 23) had opened his purse strings to dubious Nepali politicians. Indian ambassador Manjeev Puri had also openly thrown a dinner to Nepal female MPs to garner support for Indian cause which is nothing but to thwart the proposed visit of China President Xi Jingpin later this year. Meanwhile, it also came to light that Chinese troops had entered 6 kms inside Ladakh and halted Dalai Lama birthday (July 6) and also unfurled Chinese flag. Modi government sources have downplayed the claims.
Haider Abbas is a lawyer, journalist and former UP State Information Commissioner.