Over the past few weeks, tensions in Kashmir have escalated from grassroots level protests to military exchanges between two nuclear-armed states: India and Pakistan. As reported by Xinhua News, troops of India and Pakistan exchanged heavy fire and targeted each other’s positions on the Line of Control (LoC), the de-facto border that divides Kashmir into India and Pakistan controlled parts, from the 17 November to early 18 November 2016.
The current tensions in Kashmir have been mounting since July 2016 after the killing of a young militant leader. The killing of the young militant leader ‘sparked’ an intense civilian uprising across the Kashmir valley. India, in response, adopted a hard-line approach to repress the civilian uprising. The approach taken by India has caused more than 90 people’s death and, more surprisingly, India security forces have used ‘non-lethal’ pellet ammunition, which has blinded hundreds of Kashmiri civilians. According to the Guardian, around 17,000 adults and children have been injured and nearly five thousand have been arrested in the four months of India’s repression.
However, the tensions between Kashmiri civilians and India have been forgotten since September 2016. According to CNN, a group of armed militants killed 18 Indian soldiers on an Indian army base in the garrison town of Uri. After the attack, the director-general of military operations for the Indian Army announced that Pakistan assisted the terrorists responsible for the attack because the terrorists carried gear with ‘Pakistani markings.’ Following the announcement, India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh accused Pakistan of being a ‘terrorist state’ and stated that they should be ‘isolated as such’ on his Twitter page.
The Indian high officials’ accusations toward Pakistan have unleashed the nationalist sentiments in India. According to CNN, India’s many new TV channels broadcasted TV programs that call for an Indo-Pakistani war. The host of India’s most-watched English news hour, Arnab Goswami, expressed his anger at Pakistan by arguing that ‘We need to cripple them, we need to bring them down on their knees.’ One of Arnab Goswami’s guest, a retired army general, expressed his anger even further by arguing that India should punish Pakistan by ‘non-terrorist means’ and Pakistan needs to be purified.
Pakistan rejected India’s accusations and linked India’s accusations with the civilian protests in the Indian-controlled Kashmir valley. According to CNN, the foreign affairs advisor to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Sartaj Aziz, claimed in his statement that Pakistan ‘categorically rejects the baseless and irresponsible accusations being leveled by senior officials in Prime Minister Modi’s government.’ Pakistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs spokesman also told CNN that India was ‘desperately looking for ways to deflect the world’s attention from the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir.’
The current development does not seem positive in Kashmir. Pakistan evacuated thousands from Kashmir due to the escalating violence on the 17 November 2016, and India and Pakistan exchanged heavy fire between the 17 November to 18 November 2016.
At this moment, the question that is most worth-asking is whether the military approach can effectively resolve the Kashmir issue.
Since independence from the British colonial administrations, India and Pakistan have fought four wars. The Kashmir issue has been the main cause for these Indo-Pakistani conflicts, except for the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war over East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The wars fought between India and Pakistan over Kashmir have caused thousands of casualties and, oddly, the Kashmir issue remains unsolved.
Considering the nuclear states of India and Pakistan, a potential Indo-Pakistani war over Kashmir could be grave, as nuclear weapons can cause mass destruction and nuclear weapons would discriminately damage the state, population, and environment. Moreover, India’s nuclear posture towards Pakistan further increases the possibility of a break-out of nuclear war between the two. Vipin Narang has expressed his concern over India’s nuclear posture. According to his article, India has never clearly expressed that India has an absolute no-first-use policy and the nuclear posture of India has become less tolerate towards Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistan holds a nuclear posture that is determined to retaliate against India for any potential invasions. In this context, any inadvertent conflicts, miscalculations, and misperceptions of either India or Pakistan will likely to lead to a break-out of a nuclear war.
Considering the grave potential consequences of a nuclear war, India and Pakistan should work to de-escalate the tensions, rather than accusing each other. As the British Prime Minister Theresa May stated in early November during her visit to India, the Kashmir issue is an issue between India and Pakistan, and the issue should be solved between the two through dialogues. India, on the one hand, should restrain the rising nationalist sentiments and Pakistan, on the other hand, should work to de-escalate the tensions by controlling the militant groups in Kashmir. International organizations, such as the UN may also have a role to play by intervening into the potential conflict to de-escalate the tension and solidify the LoC.
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