Modi restarts dialogue with Kashmir leaders
Two years ago, Hindu nationalists successfully saw the autonomy of the Muslim-majority state scrapped. The prime minister has called a meeting tomorrow with leaders of People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, a group of parties seeking a return to the pre-2019 status. Talks with Pakistan and pressure from Washington are pushing the Indian government to reconsider its options.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The Indian government wants to start fresh talks with pro-autonomy leaders in Kashmir.
Almost two years ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a military crackdown on the Muslim majority region, historically close to Pakistan.
In 2019, the Indian government revoked the autonomy of the State of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian constitution.
Modi has summoned the leaders of the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a five-party grouping seeking a restoration of the state’s autonomy.
By abrogating Article 370 in August 2019, India’s nationalist prime minister took direct control of the state, opening it up to Hindu immigration as a nationalist response to local the pro-independence movement. He also split off Ladakh, a Buddhist-majority Himalayan region, from Jammu and Kashmir.
The PAGD has confirmed that it will take part in the meeting, but it remains steadfast in its call for a return to the full recognition of Jammu and Kashmir’s special autonomy in accordance with the Indian Constitution.
The alliance can count on good results in recent district development council elections, the first poll held in Kashmir since 2019. This has made it harder for New Delhi to pursue its objectives from a position of weakness.
Modi’s greater overture towards local demands also appears to be influenced by India’s geopolitical context, most notably its military clash with China a year ago right in the mountains of Ladakh, showing how strategically important the area is.
At the same time India has for months been conducting informal talks with Pakistan, with the mediation of the United Arab Emirates.
Among the topics under discussion is the issue of Kashmir. For Pakistan, a return to local self-government and an end to any attempt to change the region’s demographic balance are preconditions.
The United States is also pressing for a political solution in the region, as it withdraws its troops from Afghanistan. To this end, it is negotiating with Pakistan over possible military bases in the South Asian country.
Last week, US acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Dean Thompson told a Congressional hearing that “Kashmir is one area where we have urged them [the Modi government] to return to normalcy as quickly as possible.” He also noted that the Biden administration was instrumental in getting communications to the region restored.
Meanwhile, in a television interview Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was “against nuclear arms” and that once “there is a settlement on Kashmir”, Pakistan would “not need to have nuclear deterrents”.