India Tempts Fate in Kashmir, ‘The Most Dangerous Place in the World’

The Indian government’s decision to
revoke the semiautonomous status of
Kashmir, accompanied by a huge security
clampdown, is dangerous and wrong.
Bloodshed is all but certain, and tension
with Pakistan will soar.
The Himalayan territory of Kashmir has
long been the central source of friction
between India and Pakistan and a hotbed
of separatist aspirations. Rival claims to
Kashmir have led to two wars and frequent
eruptions of violence and terrorism over
the past seven decades, made all the more
menacing by the nuclear arsenals of India
and Pakistan. Only in February, a Kashmiri
suicide bomber struck an Indian military
convoy, prompting a tense military
standoff and aerial dogfights between
India and Pakistan. After an earlier such
incident, former president Bill Clinton
dubbed Kashmir “the most dangerous
place in the world.”
The Indian government knows how
incendiary its actions are, which is why,
before making the announcement on
Monday, it ordered tens of thousands more
troops into Kashmir, put major political
figures under house arrest, ordered
tourists to leave, closed schools and cut off
internet services. The government claimed
it was acting to prevent a planned terrorist
attack. But Prime Minister Narendra
Modi and his governing Bharatiya Janata
Party, deeply rooted in Hindu nationalist
ideology, have long made no secret of
their intention to revoke the articles
in the Indian Constitution granting
the predominantly Muslim Kashmir a
special status — a move the B.J.P. sees
as “correcting a historical blunder.” That
“blunder” began with Britain’s 1947

partition of its Indian colony into a Hindu-
majority India and a Muslim-majority

Pakistan. The status of what was then
the principality of Jammu and Kashmir

was left undecided. India and Pakistan
soon fell to blows over it, which ended
with Pakistan occupying roughly a third
and India two-thirds, divided by a heavily
armed and bullet-riddled “line of control.”
India’s side was granted a relative degree of
autonomy in exchange for accepting Indian
The United Nations recommended holding
a referendum to let Kashmiris decide their
fate, but that never happened. In later
years, Muslim militants, often backed by
Pakistan, joined the fray, striking at Indian
troops in Kashmir and at targets deep
inside India, including a multiday killing
spree in Mumbai in 2008 that left more
than 160 people dead.
In this volatile stew, India’s latest action
provoked instant vows of resistance. The
Kashmiris are especially incensed by the
lifting of a ban they had long imposed on
the purchase of land by nonresidents, to
prevent their land from being bought up by
Indians. “There will be chaos if our identity
is compromised,” vowed Mehbooba Mufti,
a former chief minister of Jammu and
Kashmir. In neighboring Pakistan the

sabers were quick to rattle. “Pakistan will
exercise all possible options to counter the
illegal steps,” declared the Pakistan Foreign
Ministry, while Shahbaz Sharif, the leader
of the political opposition, thundered that
“Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan,
and anyone laying a hand on our jugular
vein will meet a frightful end.” The fray is
not without global implications. Under
President Trump, the United States has
shifted its favors from Pakistan, a longtime
recipient of American aid, to India, which
the administration perceives as a bulwark
against China. China, meanwhile, has
become an ally and financial patron of
There is still a good chance that the
changes to the Constitution will end up
before India’s Supreme Court. But the
fires are already lit. The United States and
China must not allow Kashmir to become
a pawn in their ongoing disputes; on the
contrary, the United States, China, the
United Nations and other powers with
influence over India and Pakistan must
urgently do what they can to prevent
India’s folly from escalating into a perilous
and unpredictable regional crisis.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More