Hate speech falsely accusing Muslims of propagating COVID-19 went unabated, fuelling intercommunal attacks, while clashes between security forces and Maoists persisted. Muslims widely accused on social media and some local media of intentionally spreading COVID-19 through “corona jihad” after govt officials determined large number of country’s cases linked to March gathering organised by Islamic organisation Tablighi Jamaat in capital Delhi. Although event took place prior to lockdown, senior member of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and minister of minority affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, 2 April accused Tablighi Jamaat of “Talibani crime”; others called for leaders to be hanged or shot. Organisation of Islamic scholars, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, 6 April petitioned Supreme Court to call halt to fake news and media reports demonising Muslims over event, but Supreme Court 13 April said it would “not gag the press”; independent lawyers 23 April filed new petition. Despite some 400 Indian scientists 9 April refuting claims that Tablighi Jamaat was chiefly responsible for COVID-19 spreading, attacks on Muslims, boycott of their businesses and Muslim ban from some neighbourhoods persisted; attacks also reported against Muslim volunteers distributing food, including some by police and local BJP members. After Kuwait govt, United Arab Emirates Princess and Arab intelligentsia objected to online hate speech, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation 19 April condemned “Islamophobic campaign in India”, called on govt to take steps to counter growing Islamophobia and protect Muslims. U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom 28 April classified India among countries “of particular concern” in its annual report. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), security operation 16 April killed Maoist in border area between Dantewada and Bijapur districts; villagers same day discovered body of policeman reportedly killed by Maoists. Clashes between Maoists and security forces 17-29 April left four Maoists and one civilian dead in Sukma, Bijapur and Narayanpur districts. In Jharkhand state (east), three Maoists 4 April died in clashes with security forces in West Singhbhum district; Maoists 19 April shot dead civilian suspected of being police informer in West Singhbhum. In Maharashtra state (west), Maoists 8 April shot dead former police officer suspected of being informer in Gadchiroli district.
Their recent dialogue process provides the best chance yet for bilateral peace and regional stability, but Pakistan and India must still overcome serious mistrust among hardliners in their security elites.
India needs to push Sri Lanka harder towards steps that will avert a return to violent conflict on the island.
When the third round of the normalisation talks concludes in July 2006, India and Pakistan will be no closer than when they began the process in February 2004 to resolving differences, including over Kashmir.
The agreement between Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, and India's new prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to continue talks on all contentious issues including Kashmir has inspired optimism about reduced tensions in South Asia.
For half a century Kashmir has been the major issue of contention between India and Pakistan.
With tensions in Kashmir and the confrontation between Pakistan and India appearing to cool in recent weeks, it would be easy for the international community to focus its attention elsewhere.
Reciprocal airstrikes by India and Pakistan have been accompanied by shelling, troop reinforcements and small arms fire. In this Q&A calling for restraint between the nuclear-armed neighbours, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director Laurel Miller notes that the airspace violations alone were the worst for 50 years.
A 14 February suicide attack by Pakistan-based militants was their bloodiest strike in Indian-administered Kashmir in over three decades. In this Q&A, our Asia Program Director Laurel Miller warns that even a limited Indian retaliatory strike could spark a sharp escalation in conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
Originally published in Política Exterior
Originally published in The Hindu