MonitorsPublished on Aug 19, 2019
South Asia Weekly Report | Volume XII; Issue 33


Jammu and Kashmir: Many shades of the historic step

Ambar Kumar Ghosh  The Central Government’s recent step to abrogate the special status that the State of Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed under Article 370 and Article 35A of the Indian Constitution and bifurcate the State into two union territories --Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh -- has sent jitters across the Indian political spectrum. The decision is significant and unprecedented in two fundamental ways. First, history bears testimony to the fact that Article 370 and Article 35A is widely perceived as the foundational link that integrated Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India since its enactment in 1954 under exceptional circumstances.  Second, never before in the political history of independent India, a State has been converted into a union territory. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, while making a statement in the Parliament, clearly articulated that the Government’s decision of scrapping the special status and bifurcation of the State is an imperative for ensuring peace and stability in the region and usher in the process of development of the region which has been historically shrouded in the virulent shackles of turmoil and violence. Hence, the decision has been claimed to be momentous in facilitating complete integration of the region with the rest of India. On the other side, a substantial section of the opposition parties have vehemently protested against this drastic decision while some of the opposition parties have sided with the Government on the issue. Hence, the recent move of the Modi government on Kashmir has invoked variegated responses touching upon different overlapping facets that involve the historically complicated and political vexed issue of Jammu and Kashmir. So, it is crucial to delve into the problem by extrapolating the key areas of contention which has dominated the Indian political landscape in the aftermath of the historic decision, in order to fully comprehend the dynamics of the recent development in Kashmir. The decision and the opposition to the decision can be perused in terms of three fundamental conflicting claims -- the conflicting principles that the article and its abrogation espoused, the procedure envisaged and was actually involved in the process of abrogation and possible consequences of the abrogation.

The dichotomy of principles

The Article 370 and Article 35 A were incorporated in the Indian Constitution through a presidential order of 1954 with the expectation that these special provisions, accorded to the newly integrated State of Jammu and Kashmir, which is the only Muslim majority State in India, would provide with the necessary autonomy and constitutional concessions that would enable the State to retain its cultural and demographic distinctiveness. The move was seen as a hallmark of the secular credentials of the newly formed Union of India under the aegis of the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. But, as the ideal seldom meets reality, the provisions of the aforementioned articles were systematically violated by the Indian Government since its commencement. The autonomy promised by the Constitution couldn’t be fully honoured as the Centre had to routinely intervene in the affairs of the State to keep the extremist forces and militancy at bay which has been incessantly supported by Pakistan from across the border in a clandestine manner in order to destabilize Indian security architecture. The history of Kashmir is replete with narratives of major wars and regular border skirmishes between the two neighbouring nations till date. Hence, the claim that the abrogation of Article 370 is an unprecedented and unprincipled betrayal of trust of the Kashmiri people by the Central Government is a blatant exaggeration as the Article has been diluted beyond recognition over the years and it merely remained as a symbol, rather as rhetoric of trust. Moreover, right at the time of the commencement of the Article, it was conceived as a temporary provision which has to go away once the challenges of compelling circumstances recede with time. On one hand, while the Government blamed the Article and its concomitant concession behind the sustenance of violence in the valley all these years, the contradictory view claims the dilution of the provisions of the Article and the erosion of the promised autonomy as the main cause of the ensuing violence. While the historical view espoused by Congress governments in the past stood for the continuation of the Article as the principle instrument of Kashmir’s integration with India, the incumbent dispensation views the abrogation as a principled stand which would now determine true integration of Kashmir with India as the impediment of Article 370 is now removed.

The procedure under question

The move of abrogation of Article 370 doesn’t come entirely as a surprise as it has historically been a prominent electoral plank for the BJP and it only waited all these years for the necessary political mandate to fructify its long held political commitment, which it has finally achieved in the national elections of 2019. So what became more contentious than the decision of abrogation is the procedure that has been followed to make the historic move. The Constitution mandates that any decision regarding the annulment of the Article 370 and Article 35 A would require concurrence from the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir in order to ascertain the consent of the representatives of the State. But, since the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir was dissolved way back in 1957, so this gave some space for the BJP government to interpret the provision regarding the consent of the State in a different way. The Government opined that as the Constituent Assembly ceases to exist, the State legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir should be regarded as the rightful representative body that replaced the Constituent Assembly of the State. And, then the Government further observed that since the legislative Assembly of the State is under suspended animation following the fall of the BJP-PDP coalition government last year and the State is under the President rule, so the Governor of Kashmir is to be considered as the sole representative of Kashmir. Hence, the Government drew legitimacy for its actions by seeking the consent of the State Governor, Satya Pal Malik, for the abrogation. But the opposition to the government’s move has strongly objected to such an interpretation of the Government as far as the issue of legitimate representation of the State is concerned. The objection is based on the proposition that the Governor is an agent of the Central Government and it is natural that he would do the Central Government’s bidding without raising an alarm. Moreover, the elected representatives and the main stream local leaders of Kashmir has been kept in dark about the decision and then kept in detention till now. Hence, the accusation against the Government is that it has manipulated the constitutional provision and arbitrarily imposed the decision without any consultation with the local representatives and stakeholders of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Now, one has to wait in order to see whether the allegations of procedural manipulation would be able stand the test of judicial scrutiny when the apex court would take up the matter under the purview of judicial review.

The way ahead

Not only is the principle and the procedure deployed to make the move that has created furore, but also the consequences of this decision has drawn equally contentious speculations. On the one hand, the Government has repeatedly asserted that the move would usher in an era of political stability and developmental activities in both the newly formed union territories. The Prime Minister has also been extremely sincere in his assurance that not only elections would be held in the union territories, the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir would also be restored once the situation is conducive for that. But the opposition apprehends insidious designs of large scale demographic change in the valley and further centralisation of power that might turn the situation more volatile in an already sensitive region. Keeping claims and counter claims aside, how the discourse of Kashmir would actually transpire in due course is a matter of future. But one must bear in mind that the integration of people wouldn’t happen solely by law but by winning the hearts and minds of the people. Hence, the project of confidence building would remain the foremost challenge for the Government in a region which has historically witnessed instability and violence. 


Assessment of India, Bangladesh Home Ministers’ meeting

Joyeeta Bhattacharya India and Bangladesh security cooperation got a major boost with the meeting between the home ministers of the two countries. Bangladeshi Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan and his Indian counterpart Amit Shah met in Delhi on 7 August. In the meeting, the two ministers reviewed various facets of security cooperation between the two countries that has shown progress in the past few years. This meeting was the seventh in the series of home ministers level talks between the two countries and first after Prime Minister Narendra Modi formed his government for the second consecutive term. The meeting was the reassurance of the two countries to deepen their security cooperation. India and Bangladesh have the commonality of culture, history and language and share around 4000-kilometre long border, mostly porous. These aspects, while helping the two countries to have a deeper bond, have also resulted in giving common security challenges. Due to its complex border region, it has been the favourite place for translational crime networks of smuggling narcotics, arms and counterfeit, trafficking of human (women and children). Besides, militants and insurgents easily crossover into each other’s territories and undertake clandestine activities across the border, threatening peace and security of both the countries.  So, cooperation on security is a necessity for ensuring peace and prosperity of the two countries. For long, security has been the focus of the bilateral relationship. Earlier, Bangladesh’s indifference in addressing India’s security concern, especially its call to act against the northeast insurgents active in that country, was a major irritant between the two countries. The relations began transforming after the Awami League formed the government in 2009 and started acting  against such groups. Today, security is cooperation is a major strength of the bilateral relationship. A gamut of issues were discussed at the meeting and the two sides emphasised on cooperating and exploring ways to find solutions. While the transnational crimes remain the centre of concern for the two countries, they also agreed on the need for greater cooperation to attain the goal of a secure border. Similarly, the two sides also looked into issues relating to security and infrastructure at the border, and agreed to work for an early resolution. The issue of illegal migration was the only point of discomfort between the two countries. The press statement released by India suggested that the Indian home minister raised the issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh, which Bangladesh has been denying perpetually. However, it is worthy to note that the statement issued by the Bangladesh High Commission did not list migration in the agenda of the meeting. The illegal migration has been a point of social unrest in India’s northeast region. In spite of improved relations between the two countries, there hardly been any progress in resolving the issue of illegal migration. India and Bangladesh also discussed issues of repatriation of Rohingyas, who fled their homes in Myanmar due to persecution. Myanmar authorities do not recognise Rohingyas as their citizens. Bangladesh has been hosting more than a million Rohingyas as refugees since 2017. Repatriation of the Rohingyas has become a necessity as Bangladesh is finding it difficulty to host them for a long time as it is draining its resources besides raising fears of socio-economic backlash within the country. India provided humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Thousands of Rohingya refugees are living in India also. India and Bangladesh support the repatriation of the Rohingyas for a solution to the refugee crisis. Rohingyas have shown reluctance to return, as they fear persecution. Bangladesh has been urging the global community to pressurise Myanmar to find a long-term solution to the problem. Supporting Bangladesh, India has been categorical about the need for safe and sustainable return of the Rohingyas. The resolution of the Rohingya problem is important for India and Bangladesh as apprehensions are being raised that the lingering of the problem might disturb regional peace and security, because Rohingyas issue might be used by the international militant organisations to spread their network in the region.

Country Reports


New Inspector General appointed

Amidst the reports of corruption that have been going on in Afghanistan, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has issued a decree for the establishment of the Inspector General’s office and has subsequently appointed Ms. Ghezal Haris in the post. The office has been created to effectively fight corruption and over-view the activities of high level government officials by reviewing the complaints.  This comes as several reports of corruption have been made in high level institutions.

Norway’s help needed

The US Special Envoy for Peace in Afghanistan Ambassadir Zalmay Khalilzad recently announced that Afghanistan needs Norway’s help to achieve peace. He has also briefed the Norwegian Foreign Minister Mari Eriksen Soreide on the ongoing peace efforts and the next steps that are to be undertaken in the reconciliation process. No further details have yet been disclosed. This comes as peace talks are being held between US and the Taliban in Doha for the past one week.


Repatriation of Rohingya

Repatriation of Rohingyas is likely to begin next week. The move has come  after Myanmar faced severe criticism across the globe, including China and Japan, the country’s close friends. Around one million Rohingyas have been living in Bangladesh since 2017. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also visited China and Japan to seek their help. Japanese Foreign Minister visited Bangladesh and offered help in resolving the issue.

Tribute to Bangabandhu

The country paid homage to Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on his 44th death anniversary. The day is also marked as the National Mourning Day. People observed the day recalling the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu, who was killed in a bloody military coup on 15 August 1975. The national flag was hoisted half-mast in the offices of government, semi-government and autonomous bodies and educational institutions.


Projects and MoUs during PM Modi’s visit

During ​Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day state visit, Dr. Lotay Tshering will jointly inaugurate and launch five projects at the Gyalyong Tshogkhang including the Mangdechu  Hydroelectric Plant, Ground Station for the South Asian Satellite (SAS) and Inter-connection between Indian National Knowledge Network (NKN) and DrukREN.

US govt commits support to STEM education

United States Deputy Secretary of State John Joseph Sullivan and his eight-member delegation were in the country from 11 to 14 August to explore means to expand and deepen ties with the government and people of Bhutan. The State Department put together a USD 4.5 million package for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education programme. The Deputy Secretary of State also called on Prime Minister, Dr Lotay Tshering, Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji and Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma on 12 August.


Congress back into the hands of Sonia Gandhi again

Sonia Gandhi took over as the interim President of the Congress party as the party failed to come to a consensus regarding choosing a successor of the erstwhile Congress chief Rahul Gandhi. The members of the Congress Working Committee met on 11 August in order to chose the next Congress president after Rahul Gandhi resigned from the post taking responsibility of the massive defeat of the party in the recently concluded national elections. However, after vacillating for over two months convincing Mr. Gandhi to withdraw his resignation appointment of the next president, the CWC was unable to make a decision regarding the new President even in the meeting on the day of the meeting. Under such circumstances, the party requested Mrs. Gandhi to once again take over the charge of the party until organizational elections of the party takes place.

India to get the office of Chief of Defence Staff

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a significant announcement in his nation’s address from the ramparts of the red fort on the Independence Day that India would for the first time have a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to ensure better coordination between the three services. This has been a long pending demand of the defence forces and was recommended by both the Kargil Review Committee led by K Subrahmanyam in 1999, as well as the Committee of Experts set up by Ministry of Defence under the chairmanship of General D B Shekatkar.


Yellow alert issued

The Maldives Meteorological Service has recently issued a yellow alert to Centrals Atolls because of the extreme South-Western monsoon weather conditions that are affecting the country.  Due the extreme weather conditions several islands are also facing severe floods such as; Nafiary and Lhaviyani Atoll. There has also been damage to property. The Maldives National Defence Force, Police Service, the island council and the company with the contract of the sewerage system are collectively working to drain the flooded areas.

EU-Maldives ties

The High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union, Federica Mogherini, recently called on the President of Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. The former acknowledged the steady democratic strides that have been made by the country and congratulated the President on his electoral victory. Both parties also discussed the fields in which Maldives and EU can indulge in constructive engagement with special emphasis on the areas of security, environmental preservation and tourism among other sectors.


Ethnic armies strike again

The Mandalay-Muse route, a major trading route between Myanmar and China, has been shut down after an attack on 15 August morning by three members of the Northern Alliance: the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Arakan Army (AA), TNLA. The joint attack was launched on the Defence Services Technological Academy and a toll gate in Pyin Oo Lwin township and Gote Twin police outpost, a major checkpoint along the trading route.  An explosion also destroyed Gote Twin bridge in Nawngcho township, causing casualties including several deaths.

Repatriation of Rohingyas to begin

Myanmar and Bangladesh is about to begin a fresh attempt next week to repatriate thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. This move comes nearly a year after a major failed attempt. More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine for neighbouring Bangladesh after a military-led crackdown in August 2017. A total of 3,540 refugees have been cleared for return by Myanmar from a list of more than 22,000 names recently sent by Bangladesh.


Nepal issues ‘National ID’

The Ministry of Home Affairs has been very prompt in issuing national identity cards to the Nepali citizens. As of now, nearly 117,000 citizens have received theirs. The entire process started in November 2018 and now it being made more up to date with the inclusion of iris data in the cards. The system is being upgraded with detailed biometrics, symbolical of a modern transformation that the country is undergoing.


Comprehensive package for Karachi

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan recently announced a “comprehensive package” to the government of Karachi, to end the decades of neglect and suffering of the people of this great metropolis”. This comes as almost 11 people lost their lives in Karachi due to damages caused by the heavy rains. Although the Chief Minister of Sindh has directed the city police and local body members to undertake corrective measures, the provincial government has attracted considerable criticism.

An Eid of solidarity

In view of the recent Indian annulment of Article 370, which took away the special status granted to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the Chairman of Pakistan People’s Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari arrived in Azad Jammu Kashmir to be in solidarity with the people during Eid. Qureshi has urged the Pakistani political parties to come together on the Kashmir issue as Pakistan must have a united stance on this.

Sri Lanka

IS footprint 

Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED), a US-based conflict monitoring and crisis mapping body, claimed that the international terrorist organisation Islamic State (IS) has found a foot in Sri Lanka. Other countries were IS have spread it presence are India, Turkey and Afghanistan. The revelation in the aftermath of a series of terror attack in April this year that killed 290 people and injured hundreds. The attack was linked with the religious terror groups having transnational linkages.

Sri Lanka keen to resume ferry service with India

Sri Lankan Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs John Amaratunga informed that his country is keen to revive ferry service with India to boost tourism. The ferry service was operational between Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, India and Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. Minister further observed that Sri Lanka already has the necessary infrastructure. However, some work needs to be done in India in this regard. The minister was hopeful of resuming the service before the end of this year. 



Opinion Pieces

Diane Coyle, “The Puzzle of Economic Progress”, Daily Outlook Afghanistan, 14 August 2019 Rick Gladstone, “Pakistan’s Envoy Suggests Kashmir Crisis Could Affect Afghan Peace Talks”, The New York Times, 12 August 2019


Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Peace – A Win-Win Result for All Parties”, 14 August 2019 Afghanistan Times, “Afghans celebrated Eid amid tight security”, 13 August 2019


Opinion Pieces

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz, “Is RTI Act becoming popular in Bangladesh?”,The Daily Star,16 August 2019 Tomoo Hozumi, “A clarion call for education in Rohingya refugee camps”, The Daily Star, 16 August 2019


Opinion Pieces

Tenzing Lamsang, “The Real ‘Herd Mentality”, The Bhutanese, 10 August 2019


Kuensel, “Old wine in a new bottle?”, 12 August 2019


Opinion Pieces

Angith Augustine, Shyama Kuriakose, Rajesh George, Monolita Chatterjee, “Lessons after the great deluge”, The Hindu, 16 August 2019 Alok Bansal, “ Appointment of Chief of Defence staff fill a void in India’s defence system”, The Indian Express, 16 August 2019 Arun Prakash, “A blunt reminder”, The Indian Express, 15 August 2019


The Hindu, “Words and deeds: On Modi’s I-Day vision”, August 16 2019 The Indian Express, “Injustice system”, 16 August 2019 The Hindu, “Crisis as opportunity: on Sonia Gandhi’s return as Congress Chief”, 13 August 2019 


Opinion Pieces

Debby Sze Wan Chan, “‘Use Your Liberty to Promote Ours’”, The Irrawaddy, 13 August 2019 Nan Lwin, “Megaprojects a Double-Edged Sword for Myanmar”, The Irrawaddy, 9 August 2019

< style="text-decoration: underline">< style="color: #0069a6;text-decoration: underline">Nepal

Opinion Pieces

Chandan Sapkota, “Tinkering at the margin”, The Kathmandu Post, 16 August 2019 Bimal Pratap Shah, “Paradigm is shifting”, Republica, 15 August 2019


The Kathmandu Post, “Give elephants more room”, 16 August 2019 The Himalayan Times, “Criminal offence”, 16 August 2019 


Opinion Pieces

Muhammad Amir Rana, “The Kashmir challenge”, Dawn, 11 August 2019 M Bilal Lakhani, “What is Zulfi Bukhari doing for overseas Pakistanis?”, The Express Tribune, 11 August 2019


Dawn, “Car tax”, 11 August 2019 The Express Tribune, “Skyrocketing debt”, 11 August 2019 

Sri Lanka

Opinion pieces

MK Bhadrakumar, “Is Sri Lanka on the road to authoritarianism?,” Asia Times, 14 August 2019 Jehan Perera, “The Challenge For the ‘Strong’ Leader in Sri Lanka - To Uphold Interests of All”, The Citizen, 13 August 2019


Afghanistan & Pakistan: Sohini Bose Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee Bhutan: Mihir Bhonsale India: Ambar Kumar Ghosh Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy Myanmar: Sreeparna Banerjee Nepal: Sohini Nayak Coordinator: Sreeparna Banerjee
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