Given, the confusion that has surfaced after the Government of India decided to abrogate Article 370 and Article 35(A) of the Constitution on 7 August 2019; few national and international media houses, academia, politicians etc are of the view that Jammu and Kashmir has been “downgraded from a state to a union territory”.[i]However, this is not the case! Article 370 falls under Part XXI of the Indian constitution with the title “Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions”.[ii] This was changed to “Temporary and Transitional Provisions” in December 1963 through the thirteenth amendment of the Constitution Act of 1962; thereby suggesting that it was framed to be a temporary provision which could be abrogated by the President on recommendation of both houses of Parliament.[iii]Thus, confirming India’s stand on the fact that the issue is an internal one and therefore the onus always laid on India to change the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir to two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladhakh. Needless to mention, according to the government it is a “change” in the status from special to general like other states and not down gradation as argued by some.
Nevertheless, without delving into the controversies of it, the article focuses on to highlight the reactions from the Middle Eastern countries on the issue. While, the instant reaction from near neighbour Pakistan was to condemn the Indian move and down-gradation of relations by calling back its Ambassador and stopping trade! China also joined the bandwagon to criticise Indian decision because of parallel move to declare Ladhakh a Union Territory. Hence, while the immediate western and northern neighbours vowed to internationalise the issue by putting up the case in front of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) only to be snubbed at both the fronts[iv]; others like Sri Lanka and Maldives, India’s southern neighbours, sided with the Indian government’s move and stated that the matter is an “internal” one for India.[v]
According to Census of India 2011, Jammu and Kashmir is one of the only states in India to have a majority Muslim population (68.31 per cent), the otherwise minorities in the country. The state has 28.43 per cent Hindus, 1.87 per cent Sikhs and 0.89 per cent Buddhist and others.[vi] Hence, Pakistan’s run to the OIC, which has a representation from 57 Muslim-majority countries, to garner support was important for the Islamic country. However, the subsequent rebuff is significant in that context as it went in India’s support.[vii]
Similarly, the extended neighbours, the West Asian countries, particularly and interestingly the UAE’s immediate response in favour of India despite Pakistan’s plea on the contrary is well noticed. Along with the UAE, countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iran and Turkey supported India and called for a bilateral dialogue between the two stakeholders.[viii]
Soon after the bill was passed, the UAE’s Ambassador to India, Dr. Ahmad Al Banna, reiterated the majority opinion that it is an internal matter and the reorganisation of states is not a unique event in Indian history. He also opined that such moves are important as they are “aimed at reducing regional disparity and improving efficiency”.[ix] Later on, the Emirates Foreign Minister called for restraint and dialogue on both the sides. Applying the one plus one approach in this case, UAE’s confirming with India should be viewed within the context of the Islamic nature of the state, investment capabilities aimed to fulfil its economic diversification Vision and Prime Minister’s visit to the Emirate on 23 August for a two day visit to receive the highest civilian honour and to discuss “bilateral, regional and international matters of mutual interest”.[x] Given the fact that UAE became one of the first countries in the Middle East to support India soon after the declaration on the revocation; does it subtly imply that Emirati investments in Kashmir are in the pipeline?
If that happens, what implications will it have? One, it will be good for India in terms of foreign investments maybe in collaboration with Indian private sectors. Two, this will serve as a check on Pakistan’s growing intervention as the UAE is not only another Islamic country but also one of the major aid provider to the former and recently in January 2019 it promised to provide US$6.2 billion lifeline to the Pakistani market. Three, it suffices the Emirati Vision to diversify its economy.[xi] Hence, one can speculate that the two countries could sign agreements on particularly this area of “mutual interest”. However, these are mere speculations and are based on realpolitik. Based on the analysis of various scholars, the major West Asian countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iran prefer India over Pakistan. This is not only because India is a “friend” and Pakistan a “brother” but also in the era of national interests and strategic partnerships, friendship takes precedence.[xii] Additionally, India is also nine times bigger an economy to invest than Pakistan thus a much reliable commercial partner![xiii]
Hence, Narendra Modi’s engaged relations with the West Asian economies since the beginning of his first term as the Prime Minister, the incessant state visits and bilateral agreements have helped in garnering good support from the region. The signing of security cooperation with major players in the region, invitation to India as a “guest of honour” in the OIC meet few months back in March, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince’s visit to India soon after the Balakot strikes and the subsequent promise for investments has not only garnered huge respect but has also strengthened India’s position as a prominent player in the region. Thus, even though the UAE’s support to India over Pakistan is due to the turn of tables and India’s positioning as a new regional and global power. However, engaged commercial ties between Abu Dhabi and New Delhi and likely investment in Kashmir are the angles that certainly cannot be ignored.
[i]Guy Burton (2019), “What did the Middle East Think of India’s Kashmir Change?”, The Diplomat, 10 August, Available at:https://bit.ly/2HkwS36(Accessed on 16 August 2019). [ii]Government of India (GoI), The Constitution of India, Available at: https://bit.ly/2ZlXiaAAccessed on 19 August 2019). [iii]Ibid. [iv]Chidanand Rajghatta and Sachin Parashar (2019), “UNSC Meet: Pakistan and China’s Efforts to Internationalise J&K Fail”, The Times of India, 17 August, Available at: https://bit.ly/321797t, (Accessed on 19 August 2019). [v]SidhhantSibal (2019), “From UAE to US: How World Reacted to India’s Kashmir Decision”, DNA, Mumbai, 6 August, Available at: https://bit.ly/2MxHHTy (Accessed on 19 August 2019). [vi]Census of India (2011), Government of India, Available at: https://bit.ly/2Zl7qAK (Accessed on 20 August 2019) [vii] The Economic Times (2019), “Thanks to Narendra Modi’s Kashmir Move, Pakistan Has Only China’s Shoulder to Cry On”, 9 August, Available at: https://bit.ly/2L2wZkX, (Accessed on 20 August 2019). [viii] Guy Burton (2019), “What did the Middle East Think of India’s Kashmir Change?”, The Diplomat, 10 August, Available at:https://bit.ly/2HnfKJX, (Accessed on 16 August 2019). [ix] The Financial Express (2019), “UAE Backs India on Removal of Article 370 in J&K, Says Reorganisation of States Not Unique Incident”, 6 August, Available at: https://bit.ly/30Dgthy, (Accessed on 20 August 2019). [x] FirstPost (2019), “Narendra Modi to Visit France, UAE and Bahrain Starting from 22 August, Says MEA Official; PM Will Attend G7 Summit at Biarritz”, 19 August, Available at:https://bit.ly/33UPPmo (Accessed on 20 August 2019). [xi]Government of United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, Available at: https://bit.ly/30tMaKq (Accessed on 20 August 2019). [xii] Manjari Singh (2019), “Changing Dynamics in West Asia: Special Case of Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Iran”, CLAWS, No. 1986, 18 March, Available at:https://bit.ly/31Yqcj2 (Accessed on 20 August 2019). [xiii] Livemint (2019), “Pakistan’s Decision to Suspend Trade Relations Unlikely to Harm India”, 7 August, Available at: https://bit.ly/2Nphvdn, (Accessed on 20 August 2019).