Today is the fourth anniversary of India’s repeal of Articles 370 and 35A of its Constitution, and thus of the special status of Indian-Occupied Kashmir, but there sees no sign that this step has furthered any aims of the ruling BJP. Most telling is the failure of the Centre to hold elections to the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, which indicates that splitting the state has not worked. India has got to deal with a colossal failure, that of making the Kashmiri people feel that they have a future within the Indian Union.
It seems that they feel they have even less of a future now, with the BJP in power in the Centre, and engaged in making life miserable for all the non-Hindu minorities there are. Kashmiris are repressed by the Centre as a species of Muslim. However, there seems to be a sea-change which allows a modicum of hope. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed it succinctly while addressing the summit on mineral development on Tuesday: the two countries cannot afford a war, not with both being nuclear powers. As it was, war had not solved anything even though there had been four of them. However, Mr Sharif’s sentiments, while realistic, have not been reciprocated from across the border. The BJP government is not just beating up on the country’s minorities, but has also made a bristly posture against Pakistan a trademark, as it did in the last election. Also, Mr Sharif is now a lame duck, for he has announced that the dissolution will take place on August 9, following which Pakistan will head for elections by November. India too will head for polls next year, so it seems that both countries are heading for a clean slate. Even if Mr Narendra Modi wins a third term, he may feel himself freed by this to do what he has avoided so far: talk.
It should be clear to both Pakistan and India that the outstanding issues between Pakistan and India, of which Kashmir may be the main, but is not the only, will only be solved by talking to each other purposefully, and not by talking past each other. The BJP may be difficult to talk to, butr not impossible. The BJP’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee talked to President Pervez Musharraf, a military ruler, because he realized that matters have gone on too long between countries which should have settled them long ago, so that both countries can pay attention to their peoples.