In an interview with journalist Lin Xueling of the Channel News Asia (CNA), the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar gave a comprehensive response when questioned about the wisdom behind abrogating Article 370 from the Indian constitution. Defending the government’s move, Jaishankar explain detail the government’s rationale in doing away with Article 370.
“Whatever changes were brought about were brought about by following parliamentary procedures. About 2/3rd of the Indian parliament passed the legislation to strike down Article 370. The Article 370 was the only provision of the constitution that was acknowledged explicitly, uniquely as a temporary provision. It had written temporary right next to it,” Jaishankar said.
The interviewer then proceeded to assert that the termination process has not been smooth as expected, questioning the External Affairs Minister about the timing of the decision as to why the government felt it was a good time to revoke the article with reports of clashes with security forces, allegations of people being hurt and law enforcement agencies being forced to impose curfew coming from Kashmir.
In a stunning riposte, Jaishankar counter-questioned the host asking her about the situation of Kashmir before the abrogation of Article 370. Lin retorted back saying that the government’s decision has only exacerbated the situation in Kashmir. However, adopting a confrontational approach, Jaishankar informed the host that about 40000 people have perished in the Valley since the last 3 decades. He also stressed upon the immensity of resources that India has to invest to stem terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
Jaishankar further added, “The government came back in power with a strong mandate. They had mentioned in their manifesto of abrogating Article 370. I know it’s unusual in politics but this government believes in fulfilling promises which it makes to the people and it did exactly that.”
Explaining the necessity for the government to remove the article, EAM S Jaishankar cited the old local governance that had created a barrier between India and Kashmir. “Kashmir was socially out of sync with the rest of the India because a lot of progressive legislations such as women’s rights, domestic violence, child protection and legislation on affirmative action did not apply in Kashmir because of the temporary provision and local political ethos were resistant to them,” Jaishankar said.
The EAM also cited lack of economic opportunities in Kashmir as a reason for the government to bring about the change that it did. “There was very little worthwhile economic opportunity in Kashmir that would provide employment to the people of Kashmir. The youth there blamed New Delhi for the lack of employment in their state. What was initially meant as a comfort provision for alignment of state with the Indian Union ended up as an obstacle that engendered mental isolation among the masses in the Valley,” Jaishankar said.
When questioned when would the good times come in Kashmir, Jaishankar replied that the changes will come gradually but they will be effective only if the people of the state accept and embrace them positively. He further added that the normalcy is slowly coming back and the restrictions are being progressively lifted in select areas of the state. Jaishankar said that the efforts are underway to bring Indian industries to invest more in Kashmir and provide employment to the citizens of the state.
“Efforts are to call upon the industries to invest in Jammu and Kashmir and create jobs for the citizens there. Today, Kashmiris go out of the state to study, for medical treatment, for jobs. This is not good for them or us. The abrogation of Article 370 is an effort to say that the old way of things is not working. Lets be honest and courageous enough to accept it. Lets try something different,” Jaishankar said.