Constitutional Amendment - Responses from West Asia
Hirak Jyoti Das, Senior Research Associate, VIF

Responses of individual West Asian States on India’s decision to annul to revoke Article 370 and Article 35A has been multi-faceted and mostly focused on controlling the situation rather than any direct criticism for change in India’s policy. Saudi Arabia, on 8 August 2019, appealed to all concerned parties in Jammu and Kashmir to maintain peace and stability and undertake measures to incorporate the interests of the people in the region. Saudi Arabia called for a peaceful settlement in accordance with international resolutions.1

In a major strategic move, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) announced on 12 August 2019 that the Saudi energy giant, Aramco would purchase 20 percent of Reliance’s refining and petro-chemical sector at a cost of US$ 15 billion. It would create a separate division that is focused on refining, petro-chemicals and fuel marketing. The division would be converted into a company within five years with Aramco holding 20 percent of the total stake. India’s enormous trade potential and its large market have played a positive role to boost India’s standing.2

The UAE’s Ambassador to India, Dr. Ahmad Al Banna suggested that India’s decision to revoke Article 370 is an internal matter that is stipulated under the Indian constitution. He added that re-organization of states in not unique in India’s post-independent history and he believed that the step would lead to reducing regional disparity and improving efficiency.3 The Crown Prince of UAE, Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed after phone calls with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted his views and expressed on “the importance of dealing wisely and giving priority to dialogue and communication”.4 UAE based port operator, DP World has indicated its plans to establish a logistics hub in Jammu and Kashmir.

In a clear indication of UAE’s warm ties with India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the UAE’s highest civilian award, the Order of Zayed during his visit to the Gulf state on 23 and 24 August 2019.5 Pakistani Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani in response to UAE conferring its highest prize to the Indian Prime Minister has cancelled the pre-scheduled trip to the Gulf state. 6

Moreover, the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa awarded the Indian Prime Minister with the King Hamad Order of the Renaissance on 24 August 2019.7 Earlier on 11 August 2019, Bahraini Government arrested several protestors largely belonging from Pakistan and Bangladesh that came out to express solidarity with Kashmir and awarded punitive sentences on 12 August 2019.8 Qatar, Kuwait and Oman have not issued any official response.

India’s ties with Iran have recently witnessed a down turn due to India’s compliance with US imposed sanctions on Iran. The Iranian Government allowed limited protest outside the Indian embassy in Tehran on 8 August 2019 to demand action by the international community to address the conditions of Kashmiri Muslims. Iranian President Hasan Rouhani and the foreign ministry however offered more balanced statement and called for dialogue and peace between India and Pakistan.9

Turkey has expressed its concern over the annulment of Article 370 which may escalate tensions. It offered its assistance to reduce tensions in the region with the consent of all the concerning parties. During Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s telephonic conversation with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he assured Prime Minister Khan of Turkey’s steadfast support. Turkey appealed to the UN to play a more active role to solve the Kashmir issue within the framework of UN resolutions. It urged India to restrain from taking unilateral moves and resort to dialogue among all the parties and consider the legitimate interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan and India.10 Turkey had earlier offered mediation between India and Pakistan to solve the issue. India has sternly refused Turkey’s offer due its commitment to the 1972 Shimla Agreement which calls both India and Pakistan to resolve the issue on a bilateral level.

The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir held an emergency meeting on 6 August 2019 in Jeddah. It was chaired by OIC Assistant Secretary General Samir Bakr Diab and attended by Pakistani Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Permanent Representatives of Azerbaijan, Niger, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The group condemned the human rights violations and expressed support for Kashmiris and the right of self-determination.11 The subject of free and fair plebiscite in accordance with UN resolution and aspirations of people of the region was mentioned in the 4 August 2019 press release that largely emphasized on the large military-build up prior to the vote in the Indian parliament on 5 August 2019.12 Interestingly, the 6 August 2019 press release by OIC refers to the region of Jammu and Kashmir as ‘Indian Occupied Kashmir’ (IOK). The OIC general secretariat on 14 August 2019 expressed concerns over curtailment of freedoms of Kashmiri Muslims and denying religious congregations during the occasion of Eid. It claimed that denial of religious rights is a violation of international human rights law. 13

The range of statements of individual West Asian states and OIC displays the variations in the policy perceptions on state level and one collective level. On state-level, most West Asian states have not released any statements in support or in opposition to India’s move. The two regional heavyweights, i.e. Saudi Arabia and Iran, have offered balanced statements without any condemnation of India’s move and prescribed de-escalation to resolve the issue. UAE’s statements have been highly favorable for India that reflects the excellent relationship between both states. The OIC that reflects the collective view of the Muslim majority states have been critical including in OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir in which Saudi Arabia is part of. OIC’s statements however reflect lip-service solidarity without genuine commitment and present a show of strength which is in fact deeply fragmented in nature. The position of several West Asian states especially in the Persian Gulf is rooted in India’s deep trade and energy ties with these states.

In conclusion, India’s burgeoning economy along with its astute diplomatic communication with its West Asian allies has tilted a large range of opinions from the region in favour of India over the issue of annulment of article 370 and article 35 A.

  1. Gulf News. “Saudi Arabia calls for maintaining peace and stability in Jammu and Kashmir.” Gulf News. August 8, 2019. Accessed August 26 2019.
  2. Zachariah, R. “Saudi Aramco to buy 20% in RIL’s petro arm for $15 billion.” The Times of India. August 13, 2019. Accessed August 20, 2019.
  3. India Today. “UAE backs India on Article 370, says Kashmir its internal matter.” India Today. August 6, 2019. Accessed August 13 2019.
  4. NDTV. “"Aimed At Improving Efficiency": UAE Backs India On Article 370 Move.” NDTV. August 6, 2019. Accessed August 14, 2019.
  5. Mishra, A.R. “Modi adds to his global knighthood collection with UAE’s Zayed medal.” Livemint. August 24, 2019. Accessed August 26, 2019.
  6. The Economist Times. “Pak Senate Chairman cancels UAE trip over Modi's visit.” The Economist Times. August 25, 2019. Accessed August 26, 2019.
  7. India Today. “Bahrain confers The King Hamad Order of the Renaissance to PM Narendra Modi.” India Today. August 25, 2019. Accessed August 26, 2019.
  8. India Today. “Bahrain takes action against Pakistanis who held rally for Kashmir after Eid prayers.” India Today. August 12, 2019. Accessed August 26, 2019.
  9. CNBC TV 18. “Article 370: Here is why the Arab response to Kashmir has been muted.” CNBC TV 18. August 15, 2019. Accessed August 26, 2019.
  10. Daily Sabah. “Turkey calls on UN to play 'more active role' on Kashmir.” Daily Sabah. August 17, 2019. Accessed August 26, 2019.
  11. OIC. “Emergency Meeting of the OIC contact Group on Jammu & Kashmir.” OIC. August 6, 2019. Accessed August 26, 2019.
  12. OIC. “OIC Expresses Concern about the Deteriorating Situation in Jammu and Kashmir.” OIC. August 4, 2019. Accessed August 26, 2019.
  13. OIC. “OIC Calls for the Protection of Religious Rights of the People of Jammu and Kashmir.” OIC. August 14, 2019. Accessed August 26, 2019.
  14. (The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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