What explains the intensity of the Pakistani reaction to the changes in Jammu and Kashmir’s status following legislation enacted by the Indian Parliament?
This reaction rests on a tripod of three different sets of reasons.
The first of these is human rights amplified by charged rhetoric about an “occupied territory”.
The shrillness in the Pakistani polemic may seek to impart novelty but in truth the argument itself is an old one.
It has been employed by Pakistan since the winter of 1947, when the detection of its troops in an invasion of Kashmir led India to approach the UN Security Council.
Until the fiction became untenable, Pakistan had continued to insist that it had nothing to do with the fighting in Kashmir and what was taking place was an internal Kashmir revolt against human rights abuses.
Similarly in August 1965, amid a well-orchestrated plan to flood Jammu and Kashmir with infiltrators from its armed forces, Pakistan continued to maintain that what was happening was an internal insurrection in Kashmir.
In 1999, in Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir, a similar fiction was propagated accompanied by high decibel diplomacy, when in fact, the Pakistani military had infiltrated deep into India.
These historical parallels are of value also because they are illustrative of how deeply public opinion in Pakistan has internalised a narrative of Indian oppression.
The Pakistani state also goes to considerable lengths to disguise and deny its own involvement in Jammu and Kashmir, especially to its own citizens.
To this day the 1965 India Pakistan war is represented as “Defence of Pakistan”, when in fact what had led to the war was a large and well planned infiltration by the Pakistan army.
Its armed intrusion in Kargil in 1999 is similarly denied, to the extent that even Pakistani soldiers killed in the conflict that followed are not acknowledged.
The Pakistani polemic about the current preventive measures in Jammu and Kashmir obviously does not therefore ring true.
But its intensity can be understood by contextualising it with Pakistan’s splintered polity – a former president in exile, and another in jail along with the last two prime ministers.
The second leg of the tripod is closer to the substance of the issue.
The ending of “special status” has been attacked by Pakistan officialdom and media as a decisive change for Jammu and Kashmir and a unilateral measure by India to “annex” Kashmir.
This stand is perplexing because Pakistan had never recognised the validity of any of the Indian Constitutional provisions regarding Jammu and Kashmir.
Why should it now be so exercised over a measure to remove a legal provision when both by words and deeds it never gave any importance to it in the past?
Pakistan went to inordinate lengths to avoid any dealings with past Jammu and Kashmir governments, political leaders, officials and public representatives.
Its focus remained throughout on creating conditions of violence and instability using religious extremists and terrorists as instruments of policy.
That its own record of democratic governance, where exile, execution or assassination are preferred modes of dealing with dissent, is so poor, makes a critique of Pakistan’s position much more than an exercise of whataboutery.
The administrative and security restrictions currently in place in Jammu and Kashmir are an obvious enough departure from the norm in India.
They are required in the government’s view to prevent a possible loss of life which would follow terrorists and insurgents seeking to exploit the current situation of uncertainty and a sense of alienation which some of our citizens in Jammu and Kashmir currently feel.
Even so, these measures have been stringently criticised by many in India on the grounds that such restrictions are incompatible with the fundamental rights and freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution.
Such criticism is inevitable and occurs elsewhere too in democratic societies from time to time.
In the end such arguments and debate will be settled by the judiciary and by the government reinforcing its agreement with civil society.
What is noteworthy, however, is the perception of even informed opinion in Pakistan which tries to use this domestic debate in India to substantiate wild and exaggerated claims.
This behaviour is predictable but the point surely is also the complicity of silence which has accompanied the Pakistan army’s military operations in Baluchistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Tribal Areas and elsewhere.
The third leg in the Pakistan tripod is that Jammu and Kashmir has been specifically targeted because it a Muslim majority area.
This particular argument, frequently aired in the Pakistani media, is bizarre because at no stage in the past seven decades has Pakistan ever acknowledged India’s diversity or its secular credentials.
Every Indian government since 1947 has been berated for being anti-Muslim, and Indian secularism has been consistently dismissed to be a sham.
It is, in fact, this element of the Pakistani polemic that is key to understanding its opposition to India’s religious diversity and pluralism.
Jammu and Kashmir’s Muslim majority has to be seen in an all-India context. In terms of absolute size of Muslim population, Jammu and Kashmir in fact would not even fall among the top five states of the Union of India.
The Muslim population of Jammu and Kashmir comprises only about five per cent of the total Muslim population of India. That there are almost as many Muslims in India as there are in Pakistan obviously exposes the Pakistani polemic and debunks it.
India’s diversity protects its plural-istic culture as strongly as does its Constitution.
TCA Raghavan is a retired diplomat, and currently the director-general of the Indian Council of World Affairs in New Delhi.