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Ambassador's Interview in Anadolu Agency on August 05, on 2nd Anniversary of Abroagtion of Art 370

Posted on: August 05, 2021 | Back | Print

ANKARA

Since the revocation of constitutional autonomy of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir two years ago, the grassroots democracy has been strengthened and developmental projects have been fast paced in the region, said India’s topmost diplomat in Türkiye.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency on eve of the second anniversary of revocation of provisions of Article 370 and abrogation of Article 35A from the Indian Constitution that ensured limited autonomy and protection to local citizenship rights, Sanjay Panda, India’s ambassador to Ankara said the past two years have been actually a game-changer for Jammu and Kashmir.

There were questions which were raised. But after two years, I can say that if you look at the development trajectory that Jammu and Kashmir have gone through during the last two years, it is only for the detractors to talk about negatively. Things which have happened during the last two years are much exceeded the so-called promises you were talking about,” he said in reply to a question that if promises made on Aug. 5, 2019 have been delivered.

Panda, 52, a career diplomat assumed office in Ankara last year after serving as consul general of India in San Francisco in the US.

Citing the examples of the promises realized over the last two years, he said that all Indian laws were extended to the region for the first time that allowed people in the region to take benefit from them at par with people in the other parts of India.

He said one of the major achievements has been the strengthening of the grassroots democracy that included elections to district development council and block and village levels.

What is more important for the first time, they were extended to women and the 98.3% turn out in the elections was recorded, which is kind of unprecedented. And this has really strengthened democracy in the grass-root level in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir,” said the ambassador.

Real development taking place

He further stated that an amount of $213 million has been devolved and spent through the panchayat institutions at the rural level and real development was taking place from the bottom, which also includes the establishment of 44 digital village centers to eliminate middlemen during the selling of products and are thus empowering villagers.

Further, he said 4,600 loans have been given to women entrepreneurs to help them to set up their own establishment.

A lot of infrastructure development which has taken place during this two year, a total of 54 projects with $7.5 billion have been invested and 20 projects out of these have been completed or substantially completed and 13 more will be completed later this financial year,” said the Indian envoy.

Also, he said that 13 million trees have been planted and 19,000 solar streetlights have been installed and education scholarships are being given while arguing repeatedly that these years have been a game-changer for the region.

On the revocation of provisions of Article 370 of the constitution, Panda said the integration process of Jammu and Kashmir into India should have been done 70 years ago.

"So, India took this initiative after 70 years. If you ask me, it should have been done immediately after the special status was recorded. It was a very temporary provision for the formalities to be completed so that the integration process is completed now,” he said.

Indian envoy denied reports of changing the demography of the region.

He said with the integration of the region with the rest of the country, there is freedom of movement, but there is no special effort to change the demographic character of the region. He said that the region’s demography had already come under change when local Hindus called Kashmiri Pandits were driven out early 90s and are living outside Kashmir.

India’s secular credentials strong

Panda, a postgraduate in political science and international relations from the University of Delhi said India’s secular credentials are strong and freedom of religion is the fundamental right under the Indian Constitution. He said barring a few aberrations, the people of all religious denominations have lived peacefully and prospered in India.

When you're talking about Islam, I must also mention that it is not only an integral part of our civilization but also represents India's rich and diverse cultural entities. India is home to about 200 million Muslims, one of the highest in the world, and India is one of the only countries that has had four presidents or heads of state from the minority communities, including three Muslims,” he said.

Asked why India does not permit the conduct of plebiscite as recommended by the UN Security Council to allow people of Jammu and Kashmir to decide their future, Panda said it was Kashmir’s ruler who sought India’s help against aggressors backed by Pakistani troops who had almost reached near Srinagar in 1947, soon after British left the region.

And India said, well, we'll help you if you come and accede to me. So, after the accession process was complete, then they were pushed to a certain extent but not fully. And that is when the matter was referred to the UN," he added.

He said India had never any issue with the UN resolutions, but its first part makes it mandatory for the aggressor to vacate the territory.

"We never had any problem with the UN resolutions. The first part of the UN resolution which talks about the plebiscite, says that the plebiscite will take place only after the withdrawal from areas of forcible occupation by the aggressor…So, first of all, the people who have the raiders, backed by the Pakistani army, had to first vacate the entire Jammu and Kashmir areas. The entire Jammu and Kashmir has to be returned to its pre-1947 status or before pre-accession status, and then the plebiscite will be held,” he added.

UN resolution overtaken by events

He said the UN resolutions have now been overtaken by the events, reminding that the 1972 Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan has affirmed to resolve the issues bilaterally without any third-party intervention or mediation.

So, we do not emphasize any third-party role in this entire process," he added.

On the question, why there is no progress to settle the disputes to allow South Asia to breathe in peace, the Indian ambassador said when terrorism is going on, there was no possibility to talk.

"When terrorism is going on, cross border terrorism is going on, you cannot talk, you cannot talk to stop terrorism. Stop cross border terrorism and come to the table, then we will discuss not otherwise this not only applies to India but many countries,” he said.

The ambassador also said that apprehensions expressed on the delimitation or redrawing boundaries of assembly segments were baseless. He said there is a clear formula for deciding on assembly seats in the rest of the country and there will be no exception for Kashmir.

I said all central laws have been applied to Jammu and Kashmir, it means that even the assembly segment demarcation will follow the formula which is devised. There will be nothing different for Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

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