- India has officially divided the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two federal territories and stripped the state of its autonomy.
- The move enforces a decision made by the Indian government in August to revoke a constitutional provision that had granted Kashmir certain autonomous powers since India’s independence in 1947.
- Meanwhile, a media blackout and security crackdowns continue in Kashmir, prompting condemnation from human rights groups.
Kashmir Split Made Official
India officially divided the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two federal territories Thursday, effectively stripping the former state of special autonomy granted to it under the constitution and giving the Indian government significant control of the region.
The move comes nearly three months after India’s government revoked the constitutional provision known as Article 370 that gave the state certain autonomous powers such as its own constitution and flag, and the ability to make its own laws.
When India scrapped Article 370, it gave the central government authority over Kashmir and forced the state to abide by Indian laws. That legal change has now taken effect.
Now, instead of one highly autonomous state, Kashmir has been split into two federal territories with significantly less authority.
One of those territories is still called Jammu and Kashmir, and it has a legislative assembly. In general, federal territories have much power than states in India, and the central government has a lot more control over them.
The second territory is called Ladakh, and it will not get its own legislature.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has continually claimed that revoking Article 370 is necessary to secure the region, which has long been one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints and one of the most militarized regions.
But many have argued the move is not in the interest of security at all, and just a blatant power grab.
Some even say it will actually likely worsen security in Kashmir for several reasons.
First, in addition to revoking Article 370, the Indian government also said it would let Indians buy property in Kashmir, something only Kashmiri’s had been allowed to do.
Kashmir is one of India’s only Muslim-majority territories, and some experts have expressed concern that allowing Indians to buy property and move to Kashmir would change the demographics of the region and create tensions between Hindus and Muslims.
Others also claim that the decision was just part of an agenda for Modi, a staunch Hindi Nationalist, to intentionally change the demographics in Kashmir. If violence were to break out, he could justify crackdowns on the Muslim population.
At the very top level, some believe the move would cause more insecurity than security simply because it would upset the people of Kashmir.
Military Crackdown Continues
Following the Indian government’s initial announcement, Modi sent tens of thousands of troops to Kashmir to prevent violent outbreaks, functionally putting the territory on total lockdown.
That lockdown has been in place since the Indian government first announced that they were revoking Article 370 in August.
In addition to a massive security crackdown and a near-constant curfew, Indian military forces also enforced a communications blackout, shutting down internet access, mobile and home phone services, and cable TV for the 12.5 million people in the region.
Since August, the authorities have reportedly started to ease some of the restrictions, lifting some roadblocks and restoring some landlines and cellphone services.
Shops, businesses, and schools in Kashmir have still largely remained closed since the crackdown started. Indian forces reportedly have encouraged students to go back to school and for businesses to open again, but Kashmiris have largely stayed home because they fear violence.
On Thursday, The New York Times reported that 1.5 million Kashmiri kids are still not in school.
While some services have been restored, the authorities have still limited internet access, claiming that it will be used to organize protests.
Since August, hundreds of anti-India protests have erupted all over the region.
Government and military forces have clashed with protestors violently, with authorities firing tear gas, rubber bullets, and sometimes even live ammunition to prevent protesters from marching in the streets.
According to a United Nations report, six people have been killed and dozens more have been injured. It has also been reported that at least 4,000 people have been arrested since the crackdown began.
Meanwhile, human rights organizations have condemned Modi and India for what they are doing in Kashmir.
“We are extremely concerned that the population of Indian-Administered #Kashmir continues to be deprived of a wide range of #HumanRights and we urge the Indian authorities to unlock the situation and fully restore the rights that are currently being denied,” the UN wrote on Twitter.
Amnesty International has also said the crackdown and the media blackout violate human rights.
But Modi has continued on, even going as far as to argue that he is giving the people of Kashmir more rights and better standards of living by bringing them fully under India’s purview.
“Now the real participation of co-operative federalism will be seen,” he said in a speech Thursday. “New highways, new railway lines, new schools, new hospitals will take the development of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to new heights.”
While some of the changes that will happen in this new era for Kashmir are readily apparent, there are still many unknowns.
For example, Kashmir’s official language was Urdu under its Constitution. Now that Kashmir is operating under India’s Constitution, it is unclear if the Kashmiris will be expected to adopt Hindi, which India’s official language.
Regardless, Oct. 31 represents a massive change for the region, and the first day since 1947 that Jammu and Kashmir has officially not been its own autonomous state.
See what others are saying: (Al Jazeera) (The Washington Post) (BBC)
Biden Vows to Defend Taiwan if Attacked by China
Some praised the remarks for clarifying U.S. foreign policy, while others feared they could escalate tensions with China.
Biden’s Remarks Create Confusion
During a Monday press conference in Tokyo, U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States would intervene to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
The remark caught many off guard because it contradicted decades of traditional U.S. foreign policy toward China.
A reporter said, “You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”
“Yes,” Biden answered. “That’s a commitment we made. We are not — look, here’s the situation. We agree with a One China policy. We signed onto it and all the attendant agreements made from there.”
“But the idea that it can be taken by force — just taken by force — is just not appropriate,” he continued. “It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”
Beijing considers the Taiwanese island to be a breakaway province, but Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, has claimed to represent the real historical lineage of China.
Since 1972, the U.S. has officially recognized only one China, with its capital in Beijing. However, Washington maintains extensive informal diplomatic ties with Taipei and provides military assistance through weapons and training.
Successive U.S. presidents have also committed to a policy of “strategic ambiguity,” refusing to promise or rule out a direct military intervention in case China attacks Taiwan.
The strategy is meant to deter China while avoiding a hard commitment to any action.
Biden Sparks Controversy
The White House quickly sent a statement to reporters appearing to walk back Biden’s remark.
“As the president said, our policy has not changed,” the statement said. “He reiterated our One China Policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.”
Monday was not the first time Biden made similar remarks regarding China and Taiwan.
Last August, he promised that “we would respond” if there was an attack against a fellow member of NATO and then added, “same with Japan, same with South Korea, same with Taiwan.”
In October, he again told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the U.S. would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack, prompting the White House to hurriedly walk back his statement.
Monday’s remark was received with support as well as criticism.
“Strategic ambiguity is over. Strategic clarity is here,” Tweeted Matthew Kroenig, professor of government at Georgetown University. “This is the third time Biden has said this. Good. China should welcome this. Washington is helping Beijing to not miscalculate.”
“It is truly dangerous for the president to keep misstating U.S. policy toward Taiwan,” historian Stephen Wertheim wrote in a tweet. “How many more times will this happen?”
“The West’s robust response to Russian aggression in Ukraine could serve to deter China from invading Taiwan, but Biden’s statement risks undoing the potential benefit and instead helping to bring about a Taiwan conflict,” he added. “Self-injurious and entirely unforced.”
Biden also unveiled the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), a trade agreement signed by the U.S. and 12 Asian nations.
The agreement appeared to many like another move to cut off China from regional trade pacts and supply chains in Washington’s strategic competition with Beijing.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (The South China Morning Post)
Russia Takes Over 900 Azovstal Fighters Prisoner as Mariupol Surrenders
Ukraine said the soldiers successfully completed their mission, but the fall of Mariupol represents a strategic win for Putin.
Azovstal Waves the White Flag
Russia’s foreign ministry announced on Wednesday that it had captured 959 Ukrainians from the Azovstal steelworks, where besieged soldiers have maintained the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol for weeks.
A ministry spokesperson said in a statement that 51 were being treated for injuries, and the rest were sent to a former prison colony in the town of Olenivka in a Russian-controlled area of Donetsk.
The defense ministry released videos of what it claimed were Ukrainian fighters receiving care at a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk. In one, a soldier tells the camera he is being treated “normally” and that he is not being psychologically pressured, though it is unclear whether he is speaking freely.
It was unclear if any Ukrainians remained in Azovstal, but Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, said in a statement Wednesday that the “commanders of the highest level” were still hiding in the plant.
Previously, estimates put the number of soldiers inside Azovstal around 1,000.
Ukraine officially gave up Mariupol on Monday, when the first Azovstal fighters began surrendering.
Reuters filmed dozens of wounded Ukrainians being driven away in buses marked with the Russian pro-war “Z” symbol.
Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said in a Tuesday statement that the Ukrainian prisoners would be swapped in an exchange for captured Russians. But numerous Russian officials have signaled that the Ukrainian soldiers should be tried.
Mariupol Falls into Russian Hands
After nearly three months of bombardment that left Mariupol in ruins, Russia’s combat mission in the city has ended.
The sprawling complex of underground tunnels, caverns, and bunkers beneath Azovstal provided a defensible position for the Ukrainians there, and they came to represent the country’s resolve in the face of Russian aggression for many spectators.
Earlier this month, women, children, and the elderly were evacuated from the plant.
The definitive capture of Mariupol, a strategic port city, is a loss for Ukraine and a boon for Russia, which can now establish a land bridge between Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian separatists. The development could also free up Russian troops around Mariupol to advance on the East, while additional reinforcements near Kharkiv descend from the north, potentially cutting off Ukrainian forces from the rest of the country.
The Ukrainian military has framed events in Mariupol as at least a partial success, arguing that the defenders of Azovstal completed their mission by tying down Russian troops and resources in the city and giving Ukrainians elsewhere more breathing room.
It claimed that doing so prevented Russia from rapidly capturing the city of Zaporizhzhia further to the west.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (BBC) (BBC)
Convoy of Up to 1,000 Vehicles Evacuates Refugees From Mariupol as Russian War Effort Stalls
Russia may have lost a third of its ground invasion force since the war began, according to British military intelligence.
Hundreds Make It Out Alive
A convoy of between 500 and 1,000 vehicles evacuating refugees from the southern port city of Mariupol arrived safely in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday.
People have been trickling out of Mariupol for over two months, but the recent evacuation was the single biggest out of the city thus far. Russian troops, who control most of the city, did not allow the convoy to leave for days, but eventually, they relented.
The convoy first traveled to Berbyansky some 80 kilometers to the west, then stopped at other settlements before driving 200 kilometers northwest to Zaporizhzhia. Many refugees told reporters they took “secret detours” to avoid Russian checkpoints and feared every moment of the journey.
Nikolai Pavlov, a 74-year-old retiree, told Reuters he had lived in a basement for a month after his apartment was destroyed.
“We barely made it,” he said. “There were lots of elderly people among us… the trip was devastating. But it was worth it.”
63-year-old Iryna Petrenko also said she had stayed in Mariupol initially to take care of her 92-year-old mother, who subsequently died.
“We buried her next to her house, because there was nowhere to bury anyone,” she said.
Putin’s Plans Go Poorly
In Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters continue to hold the Azovstal steelworks, the only part of the city still under Ukrainian control.
On Sunday, a video emerged appearing to show a hail of projectiles bursting into white, brightly burning munitions over the factory.
The pro-Russian separatist who posted it on Telegram wrote, “If you didn’t know what it is and for what purpose – you could say that it’s even beautiful.”
Turkey is trying to negotiate an evacuation of wounded Ukrainians from the factory, but neither Russia nor Ukraine have agreed to any plan.
After nearly three months of war, Mariupol has been left in ruins, with thousands of civilians reportedly dead.
“In less than 3 month, Mariupol, one of Ukraine’s fastest developing & comfortable cities, was reduced into a heap of charred ruins smelling death, with thousands of people standing in long breadlines and selling their properties out to buy some food. Less than three months,” Illia Ponomarenko, a reporter for The Kyiv Independent, tweeted.
On Sunday, the United Kingdom’s defense ministry estimated that Russia has likely lost a third of its ground invasion forces since the war began.
Moscow is believed to have deployed as many as 150,000 troops in Ukraine.
The ministry added that Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine have “lost momentum” and are “significantly behind schedule.” Moreover, it said Russia failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the last month while sustaining “consistently high levels of attrition.”
“Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days,” the ministry concluded.
Sweden also signaled on Sunday that it will join Finland in applying for NATO membership.