In a report carried by an Emirati newspaper, Abu Dhabi’s ambassador to New Delhi says the move by the BJP government to revoke Kashmir’s autonomy in the majority-Muslim state would ‘encourage further stability and peace’.
The UAE’s top official in India has given his backing to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government over its decision to revoke Kashmir’s treaty of accession, which will take autonomy away from the people of the state and potentially lead to the settlement of Indians in the disputed territory.
On Monday, the Indian government announced it was revoking Article 370 of the Indian constitution which granted a level of autonomy to the region, giving it the right to form its own laws, and also prevented Indian citizens from buying property in Kashmir and holding positions within its administration.
The removal of the article rubbishes the raison d’etre Kashmiris accepted in joining India in the first place. The article was put into place with the added promise that a plebiscite would be conducted to decide Kashmir’s fate. Both Pakistan and India-administered Kashmir’s fate was to be decided by this UN-mandated plebiscite – which has never been held.
One of the protections for Kashmiris in Article 370 was the prevention of any attempt by the Indian government to shift the demographic balance of the Muslim-majority territory.
In comments reported by the Emirati newspaper Gulf News, on Tuesday – the UAE’s Indian Ambassador Ahmad Al Banna, said the issue was an “internal matter” but that the revocation of the treaty would lead to peace.
“We expect that the changes would improve social justice and security and confidence of the people in the local governance and will encourage further stability and peace,” Banna said, according to Gulf News.
Abu Dhabi has traditionally maintained close ties with both Pakistan and India, and millions of expatriate workers from both countries live across the UAE.
Pakistan has strongly condemned India’s unilateral measures in the disputed territory with Turkey pledging its support to the state.
Shift away from Muslim solidarity
Under the de facto leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the UAE has moved to distance itself from crises and disputes involving majority Muslim populations.
In Palestine, it has drawn closer to Israel diplomatically and backed the Trump administration’s controversial ‘Deal of the Century’ peace plan, which would see the Palestinians relinquish a majority of their territorial claims, pay Israel for its ‘security’, and accept nominal sovereignty.
The UAE was one of eight states to back China’s programme of interning Muslim Uighurs in ‘re-education’ camps, in which they are forced to drop Islamic practices and adopt Chinese cultural norms.
The country also backed US President Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims from several states entering the US.
Banna’s comments were unusual in that they risked irking Pakistan. The UAE has traditionally stayed neutral in disputes between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Several million Kashmiris are currently cut off from communicating with the outside world as India strengthens its military grip on the state. India has shut down the internet and landlines, banned protests, imposed curfews and ploughed tens of thousands of troops into the region to bolster its force of 700,000 soldiers in the territory.