On Friday, February 15th, in the wake of a suicide attack that claimed the lives of 44 Kashmir policemen, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned to expect a strong response from his nation. According to Reuters, the Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, took responsibility for a vehicle filled with explosives that crashed into a bus with the police, marking the worst attack to occur in the region in decades. According to the BBC, despite India claiming the presence of indisputable evidence of Pakistani involvement in the attack, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan challenged India to provide such evidence of their involvement. This comes after years of India accusing Pakistan of backing separatist movements in the divided region, while Pakistan argues that they are merely offering support to the marginalized Muslim population. After crowds have begun to take to the streets of Hindu-dominated Jammu, a curfew has been imposed on the area, where civilian vehicles will be stopped if there is a major movement of military convoys on the main highway following Thursday’s attack.
Many in India have taken to social media to express their outrage, most notably current Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs Arun Jaitley. By removing most favored nation trade status with Pakistan, Jaitley hopes to work to further isolate Pakistan. Seeing as this bilateral trade agreement only brings in $2 billion, the gesture has been seen by many as largely symbolic of a worsening relationship between the two countries. Alluding to the escalated tensions, a government source has claimed that India’s Foreign Secretary has summoned Pakistan’s ambassador to take serious steps to combat local militant groups. Conversely, Pakistan’s foreign ministry has summoned Indian officials to over what they have called “baseless allegations.” This has been bolstered by Prime Minister Khan calling on Delhi to reflect on why Kashmir youth have reached a point where they no longer fear death, alluding to India’s failure to accommodate local calls for more regional autonomy. On top of this, the White House has also intervened by echoing India’s sentiments, calling on Pakistani officials to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil.”
Considering the long history of Kashmir, weighing in on its current status is complicated, to say the least. At the onset, two things must be said. First, it falls upon India to act in the best interests of the people in their controlled regions. If, for cultural or religious reasons, they choose to err on the side of Pakistan or of Kashmir becoming a totally independent state, it falls upon India to oblige, not to suppress the voices and self-determination of these people. Second, the presence of unrest and protest by no means justifies any sort of violent intervention by Pakistani officials. To express willingness for peaceful talks, while at the same time supporting groups that conduct violence in the region, is both counterproductive and not conducive to the eventual goal of peace in the region. It falls upon international organizations and the allies of both nations to not only encourage but to push both states towards fruitful negotiations.
Pakistan and India both have partial control of Kashmir, while both claiming full rights to the region. In addition, China also administers a small portion in the east. In the 1990s, revolts against the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir was backed by Pakistani and Afghan fighters, but eventually ended following intense negotiations between the two nations. After both Pakistan and India became nuclear-armed countries in 1998, the border dividing Kashmir, The Line of Control, is infamous as one of the world’s most dangerous areas. According to Reuters, the last major attack in Kashmir occurred in 2016, when the same Jaish militants killed over 20 Indian troops in a local camp. This was followed by Modi carrying out attacks on any potential militant camps along the Kashmir-Pakistan border. Jaish is infamous as one of the most deadly militant groups. According to Reuters, in 2001, because of their attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi, the tension between the two states almost culminated in war. However, following the September 11th attacks, actions by the group were met with swift intervention, due to crackdowns by the Pakistani government. However, according to The Guardian, the Jaish leader, Masood Azhar, still lives freely in Pakistan.
With the escalation of tension between Pakistan and India over the status of the people in Kashmir, the international community must see this as an opportunity. Let us not sit back as spectators who hope for the best but rather keep both countries accountable to the people of Kashmir. Let us practise what we preach, and actively denounce the abuses and suppression of rights in the region. Let us practise what we preach and fully promote collaboration.
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