The Indian government’s move to cancel the statehood and special status of its northern-most state of Jammu and Kashmir, the nation’s only Muslim-majority province, and reduce it to two federally administered “union territories”, has overtones of both triumphalism and defensiveness. The first arises from the victory at this year’s polls for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fashioned by Prime Minister Narenda Modi and his most trusted political ally, party chief Amit Shah, who was subsequently elevated as the nation’s Home Minister. The defensiveness is on account of the deteriorating ground situation in insurgency-hit Kashmir Valley, which the BJP has not succeeded in stemming. Recent geopolitical developments have both exacerbated New Delhi’s concerns and strengthened its hand.
Improving United States-Pakistan ties have bothered India, which fears that Washington may pressure India on contested Kashmir in exchange for its influencing the Taleban to facilitate bringing American troops home from Afghanistan, a key element of President Donald Trump’s efforts to win re-election. China’s steady assertion of authority in “autonomous” provinces such as Tibet and Xinjiang, and its recent preoccupations with Hong Kong’s anti-China protests, ensure that it cannot offer meaningful diplomatic support to its “iron friend”, Pakistan. In any event, New Delhi has told Beijing this is an “internal matter”.