Modi hails Kashmir power grab amid Arab states' silence
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday hailed his country’s move to strip the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir of its autonomy, a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed to “teach India a lesson” if it committed any act of aggression in the Pakistani-controlled portion of Kashmir.
Arab countries, meanwhile, have remained largely silent over recent events in Kashmir, which many observers fear could lead to ethnic and religious conflict or war between India and Pakistan.
At a speech marking India’s Independence Day, Modi said that Kashmir’s previous status as an autonomous state, where non-Kashmiris could not buy land or take public sector jobs, had fueled separatism. He claimed that it was also unjust for Kashmiri women, because the law said that they lost their inheritance rights if marrying a person from outside the region.
"The old arrangement in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh encouraged corruption, nepotism but there was injustice when it came to rights of women, children, Dalits [low-caste Hindus], tribal communities," Modi said in his speech, delivered from the Mughal-era Red Fort in Delhi.
India’s decision to revoke Article 370 of the Indian constitution strips Kashmir of its autonomy and splits it into two new territories – Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. Since August 4, Kashmir has been under lockdown, with communications and the Internet cut off and a curfew imposed on its inhabitants.
Critics have likened India’s new law allowing anyone to buy land in Kashmir with Israel’s settlements in the Palestinian territories. It is argued that the move will change the culture and demographic make-up of the Muslim-majority region. Daily protests have taken place in Kashmir against India’s move.
Khan vows to fight until the end
On Wednesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the time had come to teach India a lesson in Kashmir, vowing to “fight until the end” against any Indian aggression against Pakistani controlled Kashmir.
"The Pakistani army has solid information that they (India) are planning to do something in Pakistani Kashmir, and they are ready and will give a solid response," Khan said during a televised speech in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Khan had earlier lambasted the international community for failing to challenge India and said turning a blind eye to the spread of Indian Hindu nationalism was the same as appeasing Hitler.
By contrast, Arab countries have remained mostly silent on the issue, with analysts putting this down to the $100 billion in annual trade between Gulf Arab countries and India.
Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman have not issued any statements over the issue, while Saudi Arabia has simply urged restraint and expressed concern. The United Arab Emirates has been supportive of India, calling the decision to downgrade Kashmir's status an “internal matter”, despite the international dispute between Pakistan and India over the region.
The UAE's ambassador to India, Ahmed al-Banna, said that the changes in Kashmir "would improve social justice and security ... and further stability and peace."
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has reached out to leaders in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in recent days to discuss India's actions in Kashmir, but it's unclear whether he would find Arab backing if he took his concerns to the United Nations Security Council.
7 million Indian expatriates live in the Gulf Arab countries, and in the UAE Indians outnumber Emiratis three to one.
Hafsa Kanjwal, a Kashmiri- American assistant professor of South Asian history at the US’s Lafayette College told The Associated Press that Gulf countries may also be wary of supporting Kashmiri rights because the Kashmiri struggle is centred on “people’s rights to their own freedoms”.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia’s policies in the Middle East have focused on backing authoritarian regimes, such as that of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt and opposing moves towards democratization.