A significant feature of the Narendra Modi government 2.0 has been its senior ministers ramping up the rhetoric over PoK and asserting that they have not forgotten this issue
On 5 August 2019, Home Minister Amit Shah ushered in a landmark moment in Indian history by abrogating Article 370 and fully integrating Jammu and Kashmir into India.
While many were hailing this move as a “historic blunder corrected”, another significant issue came into the limelight as Amit Shah engaged the Lok Sabha - Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Outspoken Congress leader of opposition Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury after accusing the Modi government of not keeping the interests of PoK in mind drew a sharp retort from Shah who remarked - “Kashmir is an integral part of India and PoK falls in its borders. We are ready to give our lives for it”.
This predictably resulted in a lot of excitement on social media with many commenting that the next agenda on the cards was wresting back PoK from Pakistani control.
This narrative though did not end there and soon became bigger, much bigger.
A Shot Of History
With eyes on capturing Kashmir, Pakistan backed militants invaded the region and were later joined by the mainstream Pakistani army. With the then J&K ruler Maharaja Hari Singh desperate to protect his kingdom, he sought the help of the Indian state.
India complied on the condition that Singh signs the instrument of accession making J&K a part of India. While India convincingly dominated the war a ceasefire was eventually agreed between the two countries and a UN ceasefire line was drawn up in 1949.
This became the Line of Control (LoC) as part of the Shimla agreement between India and Pakistan following the latter’s defeat in the 1971 war.
A Festering Issue
The LoC did not solve anything as Pakistan continues to stake claim over the region and regularly seeks to destabilise it via cross-border terrorism and funding separatism.
A sizeable part of the Indian populace on the other hand has egged subsequent governments to first, fully integrate J&K in the Union of India and take back PoK.
Modi Government 2.0 On The Front Foot
After the abrogation of Article 370, which achieved the first objective, senior ministers in the Modi government decided to hit back an increasingly belligerent Pakistan with PoK rhetoric.
The first major statement was made by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at a public rally when he made it clear that if talks are to be held between India and Pakistan they would be held over Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).
It was thus clearly inferred that if India and Pakistan indeed sat for bilateral talks in the future, PoK would be a key part of the agenda.
A few days later Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Jitendra Singh made a strong statement that the Parliament has unanimously agreed to free PoK and merge it with India. He also prayed to god to see it happening in his lifetime.
The most significant event though happened yesterday (17 September) when External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar while addressing a press-conference made it clear that India’s position has always been and will always be that PoK is part of India.
The next line was significant, “we expect one day that we will have the physical jurisdiction over it”.
India’s Home Minister, Defence Minister and External Affairs Minister have made clear the nation’s position over PoK. Jaishankar who forms the cornerstone of India’s foreign policy has even asserted that India one day hopes to administer the Pakistan occupied region.
It is amply clear that the Indian government no longer wishes to play on the back foot over Kashmir and seeks to make PoK a key part of future interactions between the two countries.
Another significant takeaway is that India has also asserted that it wishes to one day achieve administrative control over PoK and a struggle to that regard is not off the table.