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Why PM Modi Acted Now on Kashmir?

On the domestic front Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are, for the time being, very comfortably placed as the opposition seems to have simply gone into oblivion

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Modi, Kashmir, Article 370
History will judge whether the ‘master stroke' is right or wrong. Pixabay

The question is why did Modi chose ‘now to do what he has done with Article370? There was no big election in sight so as to create a build up for electoral gain. Neither was there any major crisis or any embarrassing situation for the government to find a succour in Kashmir. Perhaps, this was the best time to enact the best of action story for the Modi-Shah Combine.

The ‘now’ time had several elements going in the favour of the Combine – a stable domestic political situation, weak Pakistan, a hungry desperate Trump and pre-occupied power blocs. It is said that things happen when the right time comes. History will judge whether the ‘master stroke’ is right or wrong.

Domestic Front
On the domestic front Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are, for the time being, very comfortably placed as the opposition seems to have simply gone into oblivion. With Rahul Gandhi deciding to lie low, the Congress party is in its most unconfident state. The rest of the Opposition too seems to have fallen flat. With no big contender in front, the government is comfortably galloping ahead. In the NDA, all the allies put together appear minuscule before the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and within the party, the hold of the combine is absolute. No one dare go against any decision taken by the big bosses.

Modi, Kashmir, Article 370
The ‘now’ time had several elements going in the favour of the Combine – a stable domestic political situation, weak Pakistan, a hungry desperate Trump and pre-occupied power blocs. Pixabay

In Kashmir, the situation has been far better than what it was in previous years. ‘Operation All Out’ ensured that top rung terror heads were eliminated. Strong vigil on the LoC and the International Border ensured that infiltration
was getting checked. In the first five months of this year, 101 terrorists were killed including 23 foreigners. After the Pulwama suicide bombing attack, the crackdown on the terror network has been effective.

The NIA action against the separatist leaders has exposed their real faces before the Kashmiris. The incarceration of hardcore separatist leaders like Asiya Andrabi, Shabbir Shah, Masrat Alam and a few others have reaffirmed the might of the investigating agencies. The Kashmiri understands that most of the separatist leaders have been using the so-called ‘azadi movement’ for filling their coffers and settling their sons, daughters and relatives out of the state and country. After demonetisation and the crackdown on hawala operations, the Valley witnessed a drastic reduction in stone pelting incidents.

In fact, Hurriyat leader Maulvi Omar Farooq, who is the top religious head of Muslims in Kashmir, had started talking about other subjects like drug addiction, and was also openly advocating for the return of the exiled Kashmiri
Pandit community. He even got the Hurriyat to form a coordination committee to work for the return of the Pandit community. For the first time in 30 years, the Valley did not observe a shutdown or protests when Amit Shah reached the state after becoming the Home Minister. The central government’s ‘ back to village’ programme, which saw government officials reach villages and far-flung areas, was well received by the locals.

Weak Pakistan

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At present, Pakistan’s economy is in poor shape. Inflation is around 11 per cent, the Pakistani Rupee has dropped to 160 against the dollar, forex reserves are sufficient to only service one and half months of imports and it is in
the midst of a serious twin-deficit problem. Pakistan continues to be in the FATF grey list because its domestic laws are weak to tackle money laundering and terror financing issues. FATF has categorically told Pakistan to act against terror by October or face blacklisting. It was because of the FATF hard talk that terror masterminds like Hafiz Saeed
and Masood Azhar have been put in jail and restrictions placed on their organisations. The Pakistan establishment is forced to keep its terror network under wraps, at least for the time being. This situation suits India perfectly.

Trump’s Afghan Move
It does not matter to US President Donald Trump that Pakistan is at the root of the problems in Afghanistan. For Trump, all he wants is to get his forces out of Afghanistan and meet his electoral commitment of getting them back before the US presidential polls in November 2020. It is obvious that Trump wants a deal with Taliban anyhow. So he met Imran Khan in Washington DC, approved a $125 million support programme for the upkeep of F16 fighter jets and, much to Pakistan’s glee, offered to mediate with India on Kashmir.

No one can guarantee a deal with the Taliban but Trump’s near desperation for such a deal has seen Pakistan trying to put Kashmir on the discussion table. India has been kept out of the Afghan peace process even though India has a
stake in that country. But Pakistan’s bid to link Kashmir with Afghanistan and Trump’s eagerness for it perhaps struck alarm bells in Delhi.

Modi, Kashmir, Article 370
It is said that things happen when the right time comes. Pixabay

Trump wants the deal with the Taliban finalised before September-end and his troops back home by the year end. No one can trust the Taliban and Pakistan to keep their word. In case they do not, then the terror violence in Kashmir is likely to see a rise and separatist feelings fueled on radicalization can lead to a very difficult situation for Delhi. To avoid this, one of the best solutions was to fully integrate Jammu and Kashmir to enable free movement of people into the Valley from elsewhere in India.

The China Factor
Even though China’s support to Pakistan is total, yet it has always considered Kashmir as a bilateral issue between the two. In 1963, Pakistan ceded around 6,000 sq km of Aksai Chin from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to China. China also
claims large parts of Ladakh, India and China have been negotiating over the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh. Both countries have stressed the need to talk. China claims that Tawang in Arunachal is an inalienable part of Tibet and for India Aksai Chin is an essential part of Ladakh. The negotiations between the two countries could help find a way out on this.

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All the above factors and many more were taken into consideration by Modi-led government and the surprise package was thus worked out. The perfect time of internal as well as the external considerations jelled well. The road ahead, however, is not all that easy. And it will take a long time for the situation to stabilise in the valley. (IANS)

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Modi’s Visit to Bhutan Signals Deepening of Bilateral Ties

In 2014, Thimphu had been the first foreign capital Prime Minister Modi had visited shortly after the NDA government was formed

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Modi, Bhutan, Bilateral Ties
The visit had added significance since Bhutan has been changing under its new government and India-Bhutan ties had to be reoriented. Pixabay

Prime Minister Narendra Modis two-day visit to Bhutan was aimed at re-engaging with the Himalayan neighbour during his second term in office as part of his ‘neighbourhood first policy. The visit had added significance since Bhutan has been changing under its new government and India-Bhutan ties had to be reoriented to the new winds blowing in Bhutan.

In 2014, Thimphu had been the first foreign capital Prime Minister Modi had visited shortly after the NDA government was formed; it was an indicator of the special relationship shared between India and Bhutan. After the 2019 general election, his first foreign destination was to Maldives to attend the inauguration of the new government in Male headed by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. On his way back to Delhi from Maldives, Prime Minister Modi had stopped over at Colombo at the request of the Sri Lankan government.

Modi’s visit to Bhutan has signaled a deepening of the bilateral ties and converting them into a more broadbased relationship. Both sides are making efforts to diversify and develop their ties to a wider variety of sectors that go much beyond the traditional cooperation in the hydropower sector.

The visit took place at a time when there is greater international attention on Bhutan, just after the visit of senior United States official John Sullivan and a visit by the Chinese ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui earlier in the year. Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan was on a visit to Thimphu last week, followed by a two-day trip to Delhi. It was the first visit to Bhutan by a senior US official in the past two decades as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted. During his discussions in Thimphu, Secretary Sullivan emphasized the “importance of expanding people to people ties between the US and Bhutan and enhancing joint efforts to combat human trafficking.”

Modi, Bhutan, Bilateral Ties
Prime Minister Narendra Modis two-day visit to Bhutan was aimed at re-engaging with the Himalayan neighbour during his second term in office as part of his ‘neighbourhood first policy. Pixabay

Though Bhutan does not have diplomatic relations with the US or China as part of its longstanding policy, both the US and China have increased their informal contacts and interaction with the Bhutanese government in recent times. China has made efforts to reach out to Bhutan to establish formal diplomatic relations; Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou visited Thimphu in July 2018, the first high level visit from China after the Doklam impasse in 2017 when Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Indian army soldiers had a 72-day face-off in the trijunction region between China, Bhutan and India.

China has made major in-roads in South Asia with large infrastructure projects in the past decade, from Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar. Beijing was keen to include Bhutan in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Though Thimphu declined the invitation to attend the BRI summit in April, China has attracted interest among Bhutanese youth who favour increasing Bhutan’s interaction with China.

As Bhutan has made its transition to democratic governance, it has modernized and opened out at its own pace. With three changes in government through three elections, there is greater political awareness and debate over policy issues in the country. Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering’s government aims to diversify the economy and reduce dependency on hydropower export. There is a growing view, especially articulated by the younger generation that believes Bhutan should increase its engagement with a wider range of countries, including China.

Hydropower exports to India provide more than 40 percent of Bhutan’s domestic revenue. India is Bhutan’s main development partner and Bhutan’s hydropower export form the bedrock of the development cooperation. The Indian government has made plans to expand its partnership from its heavy dependence on the hydropower sector to other areas and assist Bhutan in increasing trade in a wide range of products. Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lotay Tshering and Modi jointly inaugurated the 700 MW Mangdechhu hydropower project in the Trongsa Dzongkhag district in central Bhutan. They also inaugurated the Ground Earth Station and SATCOM network linked to ISRO’s South Asia Satellite that would
facilitate communication, public broadcasting and disaster management in Bhutan. Scientists from Bhutan are to travel to India where ISRO would help them design and launch a small Bhutanese satellite.

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India used to be the top destination for young Bhutanese to study abroad, but in the recent years, Bhutanese students are choosing to go to western countries, resulting in a significant reduction of Bhutanese students studying in India. India and Bhutan are in the process of establishing linkages between top Indian institutions and colleges in Bhutan. Modi said to the students at the Royal University of Bhutan: “people energise our ties.” Prime Minister Modi reiterated India’s support to Bhutan’s current Five Year Plan as he outlined a new programme of cooperation with Bhutan that included space, education, Information Technology, healthcare and science and technology that is line with Bhutan’s new priorities and aspirations. (IANS)