Kashmir is a flashpoint for conflict between Pakistan and India, because both nations claim the territory. Effectively, both nations control a portion of the territory, but both nations claim the region as their own. Pakistan’s claim lies primarily on the demographic makeup of the region, which is dominantly Muslim. India’s claim lies primarily on the decisions of the Kashmir rulers to join with India during the national partitioning after the United Kingdom abandoned its rule over the area.
For decades there has been fighting in the region. India has maintained control over its area of Kashmir due to a rule negotiated during the days of independence and partitioning, Article 370. This is one of many articles to be found within the Indian Constitution. What this portion of the Constitution did was to grant Kashmir many special privileges as an Indian territory. Its local government was granted full autonomy on most governance decisions (with exceptions for a few key items such as national defense.) The result was that Kashmir worked as a state-within-a-state, with Indian citizens who were not from Kashmir unable to purchase property within that region and Kashmir having its own set of criminal and civil laws, holidays and more.
It was a way to maintain a level of peace between the citizens of that region and the remainder of India while internal conflicts were dealt with. The expectation was that the area would willingly integrate with India as time passed.
Article 370 is titled “Temporary provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir” for exactly that reason. Prime Minister Modi’s government has now decided to end those clearly stated “temporary” provisions.
The full text of the order rescinding Article 370 can be found here, reported by The Indian Express.
The reason for the integration of Jammu and Kashmir into the general political body of India is not related to an end to the conflict, however. It is in response to the recent increase of violence there following the murder of 38 Indian special forces, as previously covered in the TNB article India Terror Attack Inspired By U.S. Retreat.
Modi’s move is bold… and potentially catastrophic. He has clearly decided that the status quo in the area is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. It is likely to trigger more open conflict in the area, and may even cause an internal uprising in Kashmir… either on the Indian side, where the native Muslim population wants to maintain their special status; the Pakistani side, where they see the Kashmir Muslims being integrated with greater rights and want those as well; or both.