Article 370 was a mistake, says lawyer Harish Salve

Senior Indian lawyer Harish Salve on Wednesday endorsed Modi government's decision to revoke Article 370 to withdraw the special status of Jammu and Kashmir as a means of correcting a "mistake".

He described Pakistan's reaction to the move as a sign of "complete bankruptcy" because Kashmir is an integral part of India where they were "squatting".

Tensions between the two countries have spiked since India abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

India's decision evoked strong reactions from Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties and expelled the Indian ambassador.

Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue after India withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, but New Delhi has asserted the abrogation of Article 370 was its "internal matter".

Salve said, "Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is Indian, they (Pakistan) are squatting there. If there is any disputed territory (in the region), it is PoK. The Kashmir Constitution says Kashmir is an integral part of India, not just the Indian Constitution. Kashmir is an integral part of India has never been in doubt, except in certain Pakistani minds."

Describing himself as a "long-time votary" of getting rid of Article 370, the senior lawyer noted: "I think it was a mistake to allow it and a bigger mistake to allow it to fester. Sometimes you had to cut the Gordian Knot and the government has done it. The only way it could have been done is by one shot.

"The suggestion that it should have been a discussion is nonsense because even the slightest mention of 370 would evoke very trenchant and militant criticism. India has done the right thing."

In reference to the legal challenge over the issue, he added: “The Supreme Court of India will hear and decide if there was anything wrong. But the way it has been portrayed by Pakistan shows their complete bankruptcy of the mind.”

Salve was speaking to reporters at the Indian High Commission in London following a landmark judgment by the Royal Courts of Justice earlier in the day in favour of the Indian government in relation to funds associated with the Nizam of Hyderabad dating back to Partition in 1947.

As a key member of the legal team on behalf of India, the lawyer hailed the verdict as an important endorsement of India's long-held stance against Pakistan in the UK court.

"It was a wrongful claim by Pakistan which had to be fought. We fought that claim and won it," Salve said, in reference to the 35 million pounds held in a London bank account which will now be shared between the Nizam of Hyderabad's heirs and the Indian government based on a confidential agreement struck between the parties.

"Historians will be interested in seeing Pakistan's open acceptance that they were supplying arms. It is an interesting dimension which has publicly been acknowledged," he said, in reference to one of the arguments used by Pakistan as part of its claim for the funds.

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