Imran Khan’s Washington visit may have prompted India to act on Article 370 swiftly: Indian American Kashmiri leader

Indian soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir.

India revoked Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashir, on Monday.

The past few days were full of suspense and intrigue in the scenic Kashmir valley in the Indian subcontinent. As the news of the Indian government’s proposal to revoke Article 370 of the country’s constitution and to change the status of Kashmir from a state to a Union Territory came by, there were mixed reactions from across the globe.

While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party had promised in its election campaign manifesto to repeal the article giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the timing to execute it and the alacrity with which it was conducted did catch everyone by surprise.

Indian American Vijay Sazawal, who runs the Indian American Kashmir Forum, said Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to the United States and President Trump’s offer to media the Kashmir issue may have prompted the Indian government to act swiftly.

“While revoking Article 370 had been on the BJP’s agenda, one may think that why they didn’t do it during NDA 1, the answer to which could be that perhaps they did not have the Rajya Sabha majority then as opposed to now,” he said. “But my inclination also is that Pakistani [Prime Minsiter] Imran Khan’s visit and the Trump-Khan discussion on the Kashmir issue did act as a catalyst for the center in India to swiftly set the ball rolling.”

Sazawal said the Kashmir plan must have been ready for a while. “[During] my various interactions with BJP workers, the understanding has been that for them the priority has been [to build] Ram Mandir [in Ayodha on the site of a mosque destroyed in the early 199s], followed by Article 370,” he said adding, “my estimate is that Imran Khan’s visit may have just changed the sequence of events as planned a bit.”

Sazawal continued, “Also, we must not forget that the center did have a small window to operate. If the election commission would have announced the election dates in October things would have been different.”

On Trump’s offer to mediate on the Kashmir issue Sazawal said, “Well, the American president is a transactional president. He believes in, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back. He gives no credence to history. So, perhaps when Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was here, he may have, like all the other Pakistani PMs in the past, would have asked the American president if he could help solve the Kashmir issue and Trump may have offered to cut a deal.”

Sazawal is not unaware of the debate on the other side, but, according to him, what matters is that someone needed to take cognizance of the Kashmiri minorities who have been ousted for three decades and not to forget the utter poverty and corruption Kashmir continues to battle. He hopes that the move would set that in the right direction.

On any impact, the move may have on India-US relations, Sazawal said, “I do not think that it would affect any current relationships between India and America. India is too important for the US and this wouldn’t change things on ground between the two countries.”

Other analysts, weighing in on the repercussions of the move, termed it the tipping point. “The revocation of Article 370 is a major tipping point for an already-fraught dispute,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia program and senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center. “It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of this move.”

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