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In Kashmir, Narendra Modi realizes an old dream of Indian nationalism


Prime Minister Modi's decision to revoke the autonomy of Indian Kashmir materializes an election promise. At the risk of further deteriorating relations with Pakistan, even disrupting the diplomatic balance of the region.

Two days after the decision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to revoke the constitutional autonomy of Indian Kashmir, the shock wave remains intact. On Wednesday, August 7, Pakistan, which claims the territory, announced the expulsion of the Indian ambassador and the suspension of bilateral trade. A new proof that New Delhi's forceful passage on the subject is a risky gamble, which may ultimately disrupt the diplomatic balance of the region.

"This is an explosive decision that was made in the biggest cacophony in Parliament," says Philomène Remy, correspondent for France 24 in India. The region had until now its own constitution, its flag and managed many areas, with the exception of diplomacy, defense and communication.

Kashmir, the territory of India and Pakistan, is a vast mountainous region in the heart of the Himalayas. The Indian part of Kashmir, Jammu and Kashmir, covers an area of ​​222,200 square kilometers, a little more than Great Britain, and has about 12.5 million inhabitants. The Pakistani part extends, meanwhile, over 86 000 km² with nearly 6.4 million inhabitants.

What interest for Narendra Modi?

"Everything about Kashmir in terms of domestic or regional politics is extremely sensitive - you can not touch it without a good reason," says Olivier Guillard, Asia research director at the Institute for International and Strategic Relations (Iris). , at the microphone of France 24.

Aware of the explosive nature of the subject, India has worked very hard to revoke the autonomy of the region. This act, prepared in the greatest secrecy, materialized in the form of a presidential decree. The parliamentary debate in New Delhi was dispatched in a few hours on August 5th. At the same time, the government has placed the Himalayan region under a lead screed by isolating it: cutting the means of communication, consequent security deployment and prohibition to move for the inhabitants.

The lighting of Olivier Guillard, Director of Research Asia at IRIS

"The execution method - though incredibly effective - has once again brought deception, misinformation and communal politics back to the center of the game," said Ajai Sahni, counter-terrorism expert in South Asia AFP.

Indian nationalists are uncompromising on the Kashmir issue, especially since the May elections confirmed their majority. In the words of Interior Minister Amit Shah's statement to the lower house to announce the revocation: "I want you to understand that when I speak of Jammu and Kashmir, I include the Kashmir occupied by Pakistan, and Aksai Chin occupied by China, these two areas are part of India, and I can tell you that we will give our lives to recover them. "

"It was an election promise by a newly re-elected prime minister, to give some air to domestic politics, he is in favor of his electorate and this electorate is the Hindu nationalists ", explains Olivier Guillard. "Narendra Modi announced this just 10 days before the national holiday [Aug. 15, Ed] He is confident enough of his logic and his quorum of politics, so much the worse if there is political and community turmoil." Especially as the symbol is strong: Narendra Modi has announced the revocation to the hundredth day of his second term.

According to Gauthier Rybinski, an international columnist for France 24, Narendra Modi also uses Kashmir as a way to make people forget about unfortunate economic results.

"Narendra Modi does not get much in the immediate aftermath of the revocation of the status of autonomy of Kashmir, it is a source of tension and discredit on the international," says the editorialist of the channel. He obeys an ideological agenda of the so-called Hindu supremacy. The BJP [ruling party, Ed] has never supported that there is a certain autonomy for the Muslims of Kashmir. For them, the Hindu nation must dominate the Muslims. "

The analysis of our columnist, Gauthier Rybinski

New Delhi assures that the measure will bring peace and prosperity to this troubled region and put an end to its secessionist ambitions. At the risk of dividing the subcontinent.

"India is divided in two on the subject today: there are those who believe that Narendra Modi is making a courageous decision, announced long ago and those who do not agree at all. of the Kashmiri population sees this as an interference of nationalist India, "says Olivier Guillard. "It is an expected decision but poorly presented and it is possible that Modi misjudged the interior swirls that could cause."

Some Indian media echo this concern like the Deccan Chronicle, a major local newspaper, which denounces "a short-sighted strategy whose consequences could be dangerous."

Former head of the Indian intelligence services and government adviser on Kashmir, AS Dulat believes that managing to contain violence will be essential for the prime minister to claim victory. "But my fear is that there will be repercussions and escalation of violence," he told AFP.

A historical powder keg

A fear far from unfounded given the troubled history of the region. The conflict in Kashmir originated in the partition of the British Indian Empire which gave birth on August 15, 1947 to two states: Hindu India and Pakistan Muslim. Kashmir then opts for independence, but a conflict erupts after the incursion of tribes from Pakistan. Peace was restored under the auspices of the United Nations on 1 January 1949 with the division of the territory into two parts: 37% for Pakistan, 63% for India and a control line of 770 kilometers between the two parties.

But animosity remains alive. In 1965, a new war broke out between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue. The region is since the 1990s on the brink of armed rebellion against New Delhi. In total, the regional conflict has already left tens of thousands dead, the majority of them civilians.

The main question is therefore what Pakistan will do in the face of Modi's decision. After calling the dismissal "illegal" and promising to take the case to international forums, Pakistan has successively announced its military support to the Kashmiris, expelled the Indian ambassador and suspended the trade.

For Ankit Panda, a geopolitical analyst based in New York, Kashmir is at the "heart" of the interests of the Pakistani army, which dominates the foreign and security policy of the country. New Delhi has long accused its neighbor of secretly backing armed groups in Kashmir, which Islamabad denies.

"We could see Pakistan increase its attempts to exacerbate tensions ... or Pakistan increase its use of non-state groups to attack Indian paramilitary troops in Kashmir," said Ankit Panda. "If the Pakistani army decides to react in this way, the situation will start to become very dangerous."

According to Sadanand Dhume, an analyst at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, it is too early to know whether Narendra Modi's maneuver will be seen as "a wise decision or a historic mistake".

"But two things are clear: India has ignored the Kashmiris' sentiment, and made a risky decision with almost unimaginable consequences."

Source: france24

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