Sat, 19 Sep 2020

New Delhi [India], August 12 (ANI): The strategy to put in place reasonable communication restrictions in Kashmir in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 "surprisingly" seems to have worked with the "volatile valley remaining relatively peaceful," suggests Olivier Guillard, a specialist on Asia.

In a write-up in diploweb.com, referring to a year of abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, Guillard said: "As one might expect, the "Modi-fication" of this constitutional status quo has given rise to a series of reactions, in democratic India and on its immediate external margins, in Pakistan and in China more particularly."Guillard, who is a specialist in Asia stated: "As also expected, in the highlands of predominantly Buddhist Ladakh, the change was greeted as an opportunity to disengage from Kashmir and chart its own development path. Ladakh is different from Kashmir in its ethnic, cultural and religious DNA."Centre had last year announced the decision to abrogate Article 370 of the constitution which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. It had simultaneously announced the decision to bifurcate the state into two Union Territories.

The write up referring to the communication restriction noted that the Indian authorities maintained that they were necessary to prevent false news, rumours and violence and thus ensure the safety of the Kashmiri population.

"Surprisingly, this strategy seems to have worked because, with the exception of the first protests in the months following the repeal of the article, the volatile valley of Kashmir has remained relatively peaceful; this was verified by representatives of the international community in February 2020 on the occasion of the visit in situ by a delegation accredited foreign ambassadors in India (including the ambassador of France)," it added.

Guillard noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his speech to the nation on August 8, 2019, professed that the repeal of Article 370 "would open an era of development" and would positively change the situation in Kashmir, moving the latter away from a daily life too often associated with terrorism, explosions, insurrectional violence, and innocent civilian victims.

"At the beginning of March 2020, internet service and mobile telephony were restored; the same month, Kashmir hosted the first Khelo India Winter Games in Gulmarg, a ski resort located about fifty km from Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir; a first for the region, as the former principality has not organized sporting events for decades due to the deteriorated local security situation," Guillard mentions.

The write-up then goes on to highlight that the Indian government has allocated an envelope of 800 billion Indian rupees (approximately 10 billion euros) to the development of the territory of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, in particular in order to modernize and expand universities , finance various irrigation and energy projects, etc.

It stated, however, since mid-March, the implementation of these various initiatives has unfortunately been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Likewise, Guillard noted, initially scheduled for October 2019, an ambitious Jammu and Kashmir Investor Summit organised in both Srinagar and Jammu saw its dates and programming also battered by the coronavirus epidemic.

"Indian and foreign economic players had expressed their interest in this initiative, which was supposed to revitalize investments in this region in the north of the country, long away from development priorities: infrastructure, information technologies, hotels, renewable energies, creation of parks industries are among the sectors and projects that will be given priority," it said.

"In January 2020, ahead of this meeting for the time being postponed indefinitely, a pre-summit organized by the Jammu and Kashmir Trade Promotion Organization (JKTPO) took place in the capital New Delhi, bringing together several hundred partners and prospects," added Guillard.

Guillard asserted that the Indian government is aware that the integration of the former principality into its new administrative and political contours will take time and will still encounter a battery of pitfalls and a number of sceptics.

"The best way for New Delhi to rally the latter to its cause - the Kashmiri youth in the first place - would be to provide them with employment and provide them with relative economic security," the write-up suggested.

Guillard underlined that dialogue, cooperation, investment and job creation, however important they may be, cannot win the game on their own and the cardinal security dimension must also be deeply reconsidered too.

"In this regard, the decrease / disappearance of infiltrations of armed militants beyond the line of control (LoC) separating the parts of Kashmir administered by India and Pakistan, the reduction of cross-border incidents and artillery exchanges, appear as a sine qua non for the viability of India's development plans in Kashmir," said the write-up.

The write-up also noted Pakistan's role in fomenting trouble in the valley.

"In the summer of 2020, judging by the signals coming from Pakistan, it unfortunately seems unlikely that Islamabad has any plans to relent," Guillard said. (ANI)

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