It has been ten days since the Narendra Modi government revoked the special status given to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Article 370 of the Indian constitution allowed the state near-autonomy and by removing it the government intends to bring in much needed development and investment into the region. Pakistan predictably, protested the move and downgraded diplomatic relations with India, expelling the Indian High Commissioner and suspending trade ties. What effect the abrogation of the article will have on economic and social development in the region only time will tell, but the question for the time being is, what can be expected next?
Pakistan caught off guard by India’s move, has been scurrying to win diplomatic favor, calling leaders of Muslim nations and attempting to garner support for its narrative of India’s actions in Kashmir being ‘illegal’. However, it remains highly unlikely that Kashmir will affect India’s relationship with Muslim countries as New Delhi has steadily worked to deepen its economic and defence relationships with nations in West Asia and the Gulf Cooperation Council over the years. While countries such as UAE, Maldives and Bangladesh have backed India’s decision; others such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Malaysia and Turkey have issued statements that toe the line, helping them balance between India and Pakistan, without criticizing India’s moves. This is because India remains a much more important economic and energy partner than Pakistan, offering far better trade and investment opportunities. Saudi Arabia’s investment of $15 billion in Indian petroleum company Reliance, a week after the big move in Kashmir, is a clear sign of support and confidence in the India’s growing economy.