British stance on Kashmir can strain India ties

Boris Johnson has ended the British stance till now that Kashmir is a bilateral India-Pakistan issue, thereby delivering a lethal blow to India-Britain relations, writes Prakash Chand Katoch for South Asia Monitor

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Shocked by India revoking the special status of Jammu & Kashmir, Pakistan’s reaction has been a flummoxed mix – some expected, some not. The unexpected included downgrading diplomatic ties, stopping bilateral trade, shutting Wagah border,  cancelling bus-train services between the two countries, dedicating Eid to Kashmiris.
 
However, Pakistan forgets Kashmir is legally Indian territory; Pakistan’s population totals 204 million, compared to India’s Muslim population of 201 million; five districts of J&K where separatists hold some sway represent only 15% of the 12.5 million population of Kashmir, excluding 750,000 people who did not have citizenship till J&K’s  special status was recently removed. Besides, there are 15 major religious/ ethnic groups in Kashmir.  
 
Pakistan’s expected reaction included calling India’s action “illegal”; army being aggressive; wagging the nuclear tail; asking for UN, US and Chinese intervention; approaching OIC for support; total military mobilization; 200 youth of POK under intensive terror training; increased infiltration; deluge of fake news and propaganda - using hundreds of bots on social media depicting purported Indian excesses; and Hafiz Saeed and his radicals given a free hand to attack India. Prime Minister Imran Khan was euphoric after meeting President Donald Trump in July, but the US now refusing to intervene and the UN diktat for Pakistan to resolve the issue bilaterally with India has stumped Imran. Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, due to retire at year-end, must do some face-saving; hence military mobilization and preparation to upscale terror.
 
Pakistan plans to approach the ICJ. After Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s Beijing trip, China says it would support Pakistan at international forums. But that did not cut ice at the UN, with rest of the P-5 not impressed by Pakistan’s fictitious claims. Despondency is setting in with latest public outburst by Qureshi that the UN can’t be expected to meet Pakistan with garlands, and nothing much should be expected from the Muslim ummah, with realigned India-Saudi Arabia and India-UAE relations.
 
Hence, Pakistan will do what it is best at – terrorism, fake news and psychological warfare. Fake videos like 10,000 protesters in Srinagar being fired upon are being circulated. Some Indian politicians on brink of extinction support these – as if partial lockdown in some parts is akin to bombings in Syria or like Sri Lanka cornering the LTTE and massacring the lot – men, women and children.    
 
Most annoying, however, is the BBC, British media like The Guardian, and even America’s New York Times, promoting Pakistan disinformation and portraying the issue a Hindu-Muslim problem, which it is not. BBC working directly under Britain’s Foreign Office has traditionally been pro-Pakistan and anti-India. It goes back to Britain creating its baby (Pakistan) in 1947 to fight the communist influence of Russia and China, helping Pakistan invade J&K that had acceded to India and orchestrating a cease-fire so that part of J&K remained with Pakistan, resulting in strained India-Pakistan  relations in perpetuity. British skullduggery of letting Pakistan illegally keep part of J&K gave Pakistan a border with China it never had, besides cutting off the land link India had with Afghanistan and Central Asia.
 
The Indian move is being portrayed as a sort of Hindu invasion of Muslims in J&K, which it is not. India is not about to change the demography of J&K as Pakistan has done in Pakistan occupied J&K (PoJK) and China in Tibet. BBC and The Guardian would be loathe to talk about subjugation of Northern Ireland. Similarly, New York Times would not talk how Texas was assimilated in USA and treatment meted to Red Indians. Besides, how police in these countries treat non-whites, especially of Afro-Asian origin, is witnessed by the whole world.
 
The surprising part is British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meddling in India’s internal affairs, his inflammatory letter to British parliamentarians accuses India of land-grabbing in J&K and promoting exclusive Hindu settlements. He obviously has no clue of Kashmir history and the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pundits that happened in J&K. Johnson must read some history about his ancestors ruling India looting some $45 trillion between 1765 and 1938 and about 1.8 million Indians dying because of egregious deprivation between 1757 and 1947. Divide and Rule always was the favourite strategy of Britain.
 
Boris Johnson has killed the British stance till now that Kashmir is a bilateral India-Pakistan issue, thereby delivering a lethal blow to India-Britain relations.
 
(The author is a former Indian Army general and a Distinguished Fellow, USI. He can be contacted at prakashkatoch7@gmail.com)

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