Modi Promises New Era in Kashmir After Scrapping Autonomy
(Bloomberg) -- India’s government rid Kashmir of dynastic politics and entrenched corruption by revoking its seven decades of autonomy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an address to the nation late Thursday.Modi’s address came after rival Pakistan cut diplomatic and trade ties and sought to garner international support for its opposition to what New Delhi has called “entirely the internal affairs” of India.The federal government will look at ways to reduce the state deficit in Kashmir, Modi said, seeking to reassure Kashmiris that governance will continue as normal without undue influence from the capital, New Delhi. Several leaders, including former state chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti who belong to prominent political families, have been arrested in the recent days.Under Article 370 of India’s constitution, the state of Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed complete autonomy and the state legislature was free to draft its own laws except in the areas of communications, defense, finance, and foreign affairs, while Indian citizens, living outside the state, were prohibited from purchasing land.“A new era has been started in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh,” Modi said. “Article 370 did not give the people anything apart from separatism and terrorism and kept them from progress -- it was being used as a weapon by Pakistan.”Modi made not more than a couple of references to Pakistan in his 40-minute speech which aimed to explain the decision to scrap Article 370. Instead, he kept the focus firmly on jobs and governance in Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.“For decades, the political dynasties have kept my Kashmiri youth from the opportunity to govern,” Modi said. “I appeal to young men and women to come forward and lead their own areas.”The government would immediately begin hiring for posts in police, the armed forces and federal government-run businesses, Modi said. Promises of job benefits like rent and travel allowances -- not as yet available to local government employees -- and extending scholarships to students and sportspeople also took up a large part of his speech.He emphasized that Kashmir would revert to full-statehood under India’s federal structure, although Ladakh would continue to be administered by the federal government. Modi also indicated that restrictions on movement and communication in Kashmir would be lifted soon.His Kashmir move fulfilled a campaign promise made to his Hindu base, which opposed special treatment for the region. The state has been the main flashpoint between the two nuclear powers, which have fought three wars since the British left the subcontinent in 1947.Yet the manner in which the decision was implemented -- imposing restrictions on movement, cutting telephone and Internet connectivity, evacuating tourists and Hindu pilgrims and arresting local political leaders -- has raised concerns.Pakistan TiesThe Indian decision triggered Pakistan into downgrading diplomatic relations and suspend bilateral trade with India.As Modi was delivering his address, Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted criticisms of India’s treatment of citizens living in Kashmir. “The whole world is waiting to see what happens to oppressed Kashmiris in IOK when curfew is lifted,” Khan said. “What should be obvious is the international community will be witnessing the genocide of the Kashmiris.”His government announced a series of measures on Wednesday to oppose what it called “unilateral and illegal actions” by India. He also said Pakistan will take the matter to the United Nations Security Council and ensure the army remains vigilant. It also canceled a two-decade-old bi-weekly train service between the two countries.New Delhi urged Pakistan to review its actions so “that normal channels for diplomatic communications are preserved,” foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday.‘Undermines Sovereignty’China has also criticized India’s actions.A strongly-worded statement released by Beijing was most critical of the impact of India’s actions on the mainly Buddhist region of Ladakh -- an area of strategic importance nestled between Tibet and Pakistan.“The recent unilateral revision of domestic laws by the Indian side continues to undermine China’s territorial sovereignty, which is unacceptable and will not have any effect,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswomen Hua Chunying said in the statement Tuesday.To contact the reporters on this story: Archana Chaudhary in New Delhi at email@example.com;Bibhudatta Pradhan in New Delhi at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at email@example.com, Unni KrishnanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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