For the first time since the revocation of Kashmir’s special status in August 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to meet with the Kashmiri leadership on Thursday.
While this remains an undiscussed topic in Pakistan, this meeting, which is to be held at Modi’s official residence, 7 Lok Kalyan Marg, could have special implications for Pakistan and the people of Kashmir, as the meeting is happening to settle a “political equilibrium” after 22 months of revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution.
The meeting would be attended by all the Kashmir-based political parties. However, all eyes are set on The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), an electoral alliance between several political parties Kashmir formed in October of 2020.
PAGD aims to advocate for the restoration of the special status of Kashmir under article 370, along with Article 35A of the constitution. The member parties include the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference, Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Jammu and Kashmir Awami National Conference Jammu & Kashmir People’s Movement.
Cofounded by Kashmiri leaders Mehbooba Mufti and Farooq Abdullah, and chaired by the latter, the alliance aims to be steadfast on its demand of restoration of Kashmir’s special status.
It must be noted that despite being initially looked down upon by the central government of India, the PAGD had gained a majority in Srinagar, Kashmir, confirming itself as a recognizable political force in the Kashmir region.
Indian Media reports suggest that the government is also steadfast in maintaining the status quo, and the reports suggest that the only cooperation need by the government is for the ongoing delimitation exercise for the provincial assembly seats in Kashmir.
According to senior news anchor and strategic analyst Dr. Moeed Pirzada, this alliance initially demanded an increased delimitation of the assembly seats for the province. Talking about the issue at length on Wednesday night he informed the audience that a delimitation commission was formed on 6th March 2020 for the delimitation of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in the new territory.
For the first time, as the special status for the Indian Occupied Territory has been revoked, the provisions of the seats shall be according to the Constitution that governs the rest of Indian unions rather than Kashmir being treated as a special entity as declared by the now removed clauses.
Reportedly, however, the delimitation commission has been unable to function properly as three of the five associate members refused to attend the meeting.
These were National Conference Party’s MPs Farooq Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone, and Hasnain Masoodi, who stated that the Kashmir Reorganization Act of 2019 was unconstitutional and were thus not going to be part of any activity relating to the law.
It is worth mentioning that the commission has proposed an increase of seats for the provincial assembly from 107 to 114, and a ‘re-designation of constituencies’, which in the past has been linked with changing the demographics of Kashmir to make it a Muslim minority province.
Opinion of PAGD
A senior leader of the PAGD, who didn’t want to be named, told an Indian news outlet that “there will be no backing down” on their demand for the restoration of special status to J&K.
He added that after Independence, Jammu and Kashmir acceded to the Union of India on certain terms and conditions laid down in Article 370. It provided Kashmiris with constitutional safeguards, and they have been snatched from them without consulting the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir, further saying that they will seek restoration of their constitutional rights in the meeting.
Mehbooba Mufti, the VP of PAGD also spoke to the media saying, “We will tell them(Amit shah and PM Modi), ‘Whatever you have done is illegal and unconstitutional, and without restoration of Article 370, the issue of Jammu and Kashmir can’t be resolved and the situation here will continue to remain volatile.”
Why a sudden change of heart?
Why did Amit Shah’s government, which is governing the Union Territory suddenly went from calling the Gupkar alliance a ‘Gupkar gang’ in November 2020 to sitting on the table with them and deciding the fate of the Indian Kashmir on 24th June 2021?
The Gupkar Gang is going global! They want foreign forces to intervene in Jammu and Kashmir. The Gupkar Gang also insults India’s Tricolour. Do Sonia Ji and Rahul Ji support such moves of the Gupkar Gang ? They should make their stand crystal clear to the people of India.
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) November 17, 2020
Dr. Moeed Pirzada in his Youtube vlog analyzed the reasons why this change of heart happened among the leadership of Delhi.
Reportedly, the unofficial statements from the Gupkar alliance suggest this immediate meeting was not an emergency for the Indian leadership and the real reason lies in the changing sociopolitical situation of the region.
Dr. Pirzada said that one of the foremost reasons for this change of heart is the advent of China as a regional hegemon in Southeast Asia. The Indian reluctance to see China as a regional power took quite a hit in May 2020, as the standoff between two nations in Pangong, Ladakh led to the Indian side suffering heavy losses as well as international embarrassment.
It must be mentioned that according to an international media report from May 2021, the rift between the two nations is widening still after the thawing of tensions between two nations in February.
Dr. Pirzada said that this hostility led to India rethinking its regional international affairs leading to improving bilateral ties with Pakistan, which failed due to being ‘politically unpalatable’ on the Pakistani side.
Dr. Pirzada also agreed with the analysis presented by the Indian publications that the incumbent Biden Administration is forcing India to resolve the Kashmir issue.
It is worth mentioning that on 12th June upon the issue being raised by a US Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan from Pennsylvania, the acting assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia Dean Thompson revealed that the Joe Biden administration had urged the Indian government to ensure a speedy return to normality in Kashmir.
Mr. Thompson mentioned that India is the world’s largest democracy, saying “However, some of the Indian government’s actions have raised concerns that are inconsistent with India’s democratic values.”
Assistant Secretary of State added, “This includes increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and the detention of human rights activists and journalists.”
Dr. Pirzada said that Kashmir is something that many Indian-born figures in the US have been criticizing the government for, and that the US’s unwavering support to India paints a bad picture on the administration due to the atrocities in Kashmir by the Indian State.
The early withdrawal of US forces in Afghanistan is something that is expected to change the regional dynamics, as Pakistan would once again become an important regional player was not expected by India, as the US needs Pakistan if the Western power wants a smooth transition of power in Afghanistan.
Citing Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Pirzada said that intelligence sources claim that the US withdrawal might even be as early as the 4th of July, a digression from the scheduled date of 11th September 2021.
Thus, according to various analysts including Indian publications, different regional forces and international factors are the major reasons for such an important step by the central government.