“The goal to turn Kashmiris into Indians won’t be easy”: Dinsha Mistree of Stanford Law

Ritu Jha-

The revoking of Article 370 might have appeared smooth from afar, but experts believe the real battle is yet to come.

Dinsha Mistree

Dinsha Mistree, a research fellow and lecturer in the Rule of Law Program at Stanford Law School in California, sharing his expert views on scrapping Article 370, said the decision made in Delhi is the first step in a long number of steps.

On Aug. 5, Jammu and Kashmir were given a special status under Article 370 of the constitution of India and were given the status of a Union Territory.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on, Thursday, Aug. 8 in his first address to the nation after revocation of Article 370, said that Pakistan used Article 370 and 35A as a weapon to instigate the feelings of some people against the country and that the two articles gave the Jammu and Kashmir people nothing but separatism, terrorism, and corruption.

He said that with the betterment of the current system, not only the current situation of the people of Jammu and Kashmir will improve, but their future will go in a new, more positive direction.

But Mistree, sounding skeptical after learning this news said, “I was surprised because this really is a gamble.”

“It is going to be a messy thing, developing Kashmir. It’s not like West Germany settling in East Germany. India doesn’t have a great track record with this kind of development. They tend to be unfortunately pretty bloody,” said Mistree referring to the central government’s past actions in 1984’s Operation Blue Star or Assam and Tamil rebels and the existing Naxalites issue in India.

“I think there is going to be a lot of action, as long as they don’t declare Martial law. I think we can see a lot of protection of rights.”

(Modi) has to really play this safely to avoid backlash according to Mistree,  because the development of Kashmir is a multi decades-long project.

“When West and East Germany reunified there were multi-billions of dollars being diverted to build the infrastructure in East Germany.

“It was a plan that was thought about a decade before the wall came down and they worked on it very carefully. That is the kind of thing you need to do if you want to have economic development in a divided area.”

When asked what the problem is in Jammu and Kashmir, he said that “East and West Germany  had a common culture and a history specifically apart from Soviet Union side forces.”

“In Jammu and Kashmir, it is totally different. As East Germany did not expect to have terrorists. The plan for Jammu and Kashmir it is audacious. If it works great, but it is going to be truly difficult to execute.”

The recent media report shows that the Pakistani government is in retaliation after suspending Article 370 by the Modi action. They have suspended the cross-border train services and has announced to suspend the Lahore-Delhi friendship bus service, in the wake of India’s moves on Kashmir.

Mistree pointing to Pakistan’s move said that India’s relationship with Pakistan is bitter and getting weaker. It is certainly going to get worse. And it is not that they did not negotiate previously, and it’s not they did not historically try to make an agreement over Kashmir. Even behind the scene, they have tried because war is not the solution and the best would have been everyone agrees on something together at international level and then implements jointly. But now that is not possible it has broken the dice.

“It is very clear Modi is not motivated by the international stage at all. He is more concerned about domestic politics,” said Mistree. “Modi is not easily motivated by how the world perceives him. And I don’t think Modi is worrying about what the UN says.”

This is the reason he has taken the stand; he is not worried about the international community. That is pretty unique.

Most previous leaders of major countries care about the International standing compared to Modi. “Right now the debate is ideological whether this is right or wrong. (It depends) on how it is executed,’ he said.

If it is executed well and economic development turns around, education and opportunities in Kashmir will rise, but there is a likelihood they are going to fail.

“It’s really hard to do this kind of thing,” said Mistree hoping it goes well. While he was not pleased about the house arrests of the Ministers, like Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti said, “It is not the surprise they did it.”

What needs to be done is economic development by the Indian government, and stability needs to be enforced.”

“Stability, the way it has been done historically is pretty bloody. Punjab in the 1980’s, for example. The Naxalite movement is not a hearts and mind thing, it is usually an appeal to the local population. It is usually more oppressive than you think. This is quite an interesting time.”

You have to win the people over by proving that there will be improvements in terms of education, essential services, and basic law and order. You have to minimize the collateral damage.

There can be a lot of local resentment. That is a part of the concern.

“This is a multi-decade approach and it’s really, really challenging,” Mistree cited. “It depends on what happens over time in the next few stages. It depends on the change of the India army, the approach the Indian army takes, and (whether they are) going to take collateral damage and an economic plan.”

He said that they may have a great plan for all of this and a very good reason to keep this plan secret. But they really need good execution.

“To me, it doesn’t matter how it starts, but the biggest danger would be if there is a lot of violence in the next few years. Whether that is triggered by a Pakistani coming in or trigged by domestic separatists or Indian army, it is going to be very messy,” Mistree said, “My fear the government would come in too heavy-handed. Which we have seen them do before,” he said. Previously the to kill one terrorist, the government seems to be willing to accept very high collateral damage, the calculation is different. Now you get more backlash and more resentment. And so, they have to take the pain to really protect the average Kashmiri.”

He said, “The Indian government yes, they kept the country together, there is no question, but again the situation in very different today and you don’t want to have the Naxal situation on hand in Kashmir, because Pakistan would make it worse.”

“You have to really think about how (to) play this safely,” Mistree said adding the goal to turn Kashmiris into Indians won’t be easy.

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