What is the secret of the popularity of Modis
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi feels strong. In early summer he won a second term in office for his Hindu nationalist party, the opposition is in the dust and will not recover anytime soon. Nobody can be seen far and wide who could endanger Modi's power. Apparently the triumph inspires him so much that he has now tackled the most daring of all projects: On August 5, he redeemed a controversial election promise and revoked its autonomy from the crisis region of Kashmir overnight by decree.
Modi is grinding away rights that have been anchored in the constitution for more than 60 years, something no Indian prime minister has dared to do. He is making brisk progress, also because he knows that he has a two-thirds majority in both chambers of parliament. The prime minister promises to completely reorganize Kashmir; he paints rosy pictures of a future without terror. And it's true: if he succeeds in untying the Kashmiri knot, he would probably go down in history as the greatest Indian prime minister after the founder of the state Jawaharlal Nehru. But it is very unlikely that Modi will pacify Kashmir. He is likely to lift himself up on the task.
This is because he completely ignores two centers of force in this conflict. First, Modi abolished autonomous rights without coordinating his plans with the Kashmiri, let alone convincing them to do so. And secondly, he seems to believe that pacification is possible without talks with neighboring and arch-rival Pakistan. But that seems absurd because the Islamist extremists have their refuge in Pakistan, otherwise they would hardly be able to survive. Without agreements with Pakistan, this risk can hardly be contained.
Conversely, this means: Peace in Kashmir is only to be had with our neighbors, not without them. Modi defies this logic, and that will soon take revenge. Because without compensation, Kashmir will remain an arena of confrontation. India and Pakistan have waged three wars over the area, both sides only control part of it, and the militant groups that want to attack India switch back and forth across the ceasefire line.
Narendra Modi's course in Kashmir is like an attempt at forced happiness, of all places in an area in which radicalized youth are chanting: "India go home!" India should disappear. Why these young people, who already feel alienated from India because of the rigorous military power, could be converted to love India through even more pressure remains Modi's secret.
If it is true, as confirmed by anonymous sources in the police force, thousands of Kashmiri people have been imprisoned, all of them political leaders. This shows that Delhi fears unrest. The feeling of many Kashmiri that they are being ruled by an arrogant occupying power is unlikely to fade. The government in Delhi does not allow foreign reporters into the crisis area and has turned off the phones and the Internet in Kashmir for two weeks, which suggests that the situation is far more bleak than Delhi would like to admit publicly.
Now it is not as if Pakistan can show a clean slate in Kashmir, on the contrary. The rulers in Islamabad, who theatrically stage themselves as guardians of human rights and godfathers of Muslim freedom fighters, have played a key role in nurturing the terror in Kashmir; the aim has always been to weaken India. The two nuclear powers always had their own interests more important than the sensitivities of the Kashmiri. But their urge for independence is great.
The Kashmiri will not bow to crowbar policies
The burden of history makes reconciliation difficult. In the 1990s, the Hindus fled Kashmir, driven out by Islamist extremists, whose crimes have gone unpunished to this day. Conversely, Muslim civilians in Kashmir complain that Indian security forces always go unpunished when they attack. Anyone who is not for India is immediately considered a suspected terrorist.
The legacy of violence makes Kashmir an emotionally charged issue. With his iron hand policy, Modi is likely to increase his popularity among the Indian Hindu majority. His course fits a party that polarizes religiously. It is not to be expected that the Kashmiri will bow to the crowbar policy from Delhi. There is a threat of further escalation, possibly with new terrorist attacks in response to India's advance.
Is a war looming in South Asia? Neither side is currently interested, but the risk is growing. The chance of building a bridge between Islamabad and Delhi is slim. It looks like cashmere is being increasingly ground up between two fluffed-up, enmity-ridden nuclear powers.
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