on the Government of India Act, 1935, that empowered rulers of Indian princely states to merge with India through such an agreement?
Will the principle be jiski laathi uski bhains (might is right)? Why do we need to even try that now? It has worked for us since 1947. India kept Hyderabad, even though the Nizam wanted to go to Pakistan, because of its Hindu majority and lack of contiguity, and Kashmir, because the ruler wanted it in spite of its Muslim majority and contiguity with Pakistan. Over time, Kashmir has become more integrated with India, not less, and, particularly as India has become more federalised, Article 370 is losing relevance. (The governments of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and the BJP in Assam, each of them has stalled sovereign foreign policy decisions. Imagine the furore if J&K had done something similar). That’s why Jitendra Singh has scored a self-goal by reopening the issue and reviving demands in the Valley to strengthen it instead. Brave man he must be, to question such a key covenant of the Constitution within 24 hours of taking the oath to protect it as a minister. Unless he confused the “sangh ke mantri” in the Hindi text of the oath to mean the mantri of the Sangh in Nagpur and not of the Union of India.
We know that it would be impossible for Modi to publicly state that he is putting these ideological issues in cold storage. He is more powerful than any prime minister in the last 25 years. But he is no Deng Xiaoping yet to be able to say something like, since this generation does not have the wisdom to resolve these issues, let us leave it to a wiser generation. But he also cannot let mavericks damage his precious political capital. The Americans solved a similar problem in an entirely different context, the complex START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks) with the Soviets in Geneva. To prevent silly chatter and static, they printed set answers to the questions most likely to be asked on 3×5 cards, told all delegates to carry them in the top pockets of their jackets and to simply read from them. A set of similar 3×5 cards for the waistcoat pockets of Modi’s new ministers would be a useful beginning.
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