The biggest problem Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces after his first meeting with Kashmiri leaders in New Delhi is not that they are forthright demanders of freedom for the people of Kashmir, but that they have only recently been prisoners of his, flung into jail on 5 August 2019 and kept there, even though they are former puppet CMs of the state (as it was). Another problem that he will face going forward is the absence of the leadership of the All-Parties Hurriyet Conference, who press for Kashmiri people to be allowed to exercise their right of self-determination. While their presence would have made his task that much harder, their absence means that any agreement with the puppet leaders attending, might not be worth the paper it is written on.
Mr Modi’s wish is simple: he wants an endorsement of all that his government has done since it got the Indian Parliament to abolish Articles 35A and 370 of the Indian Constitution, which provided Kashmir to have special status within the Indian Union, and preventing non-Kashmiris from buying property in Kashmir. This was followed by abolition of the state, and the constitution of two union territories, one of which, that of Ladakh, will have no legislature. There are indications that Mr Modi will hold forth the lollipop of state status for Kashmir Union Territory alone, and here too he wants seven seats added, from the Hindu regions of Jammu, in the hope of wangling a majority. This is a repeat of the old Indian ploy of offering some Kashmiri leaders scraps from the table, so that the larger agenda can be pursued.
Those who set store by Mr Modi’s paying attention to Pakistan’s demand for a rollback of the August 5 action before there is any movement bilaterally should remember that Mr Modi has a larger constituency to satisfy in the Indian Cow Belt, and has used anti-Muslim tropes for electoral purposes. Without all the stakeholders being involved, to wit the Indian and Pakistani governments, pro-Indian Kashmir politicians from Indian-Held Kashmir, anti-Indian politicians from there and politicians from AJK, there will be no solution. Mr Modi and the rest represent only two of these five groups.