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.
Tension and clashes between Indian and Pakistani forces along Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir) continued, while new political party emerged within Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Islamabad claimed Indian forces 17 March killed Pakistani soldier in cross-LoC shelling. At South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation virtual summit to develop regional strategy against COVID-19 spread, Pakistani participant 16 March called for lifting of lockdown in J&K, with India’s external ministry spokesperson responding summit “not a political platform” and “Pakistan misused it”. Within J&K, new political party Jammu and Kashmir Apni (Our Own) launched in Srinagar 8 March; Apni headed by Altaf Bukhari, formerly with Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party, whose head former Kashmir’s Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is currently detained, also includes defectors from other major Kashmiri parties; Apni delegation led by Bukhari 14 March met PM Modi in New Delhi and declared support for Aug 2019 revoking of J&K special constitutional status, while Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah promised to revive J&K’s statehood in future. Leader of opposition in upper house of parliament 14 March met with Farooq Abdullah, former chief minister released previous day after charges under Public Safety Act were revoked, called on govt to release all Kashmiri political prisoners and dismissed Apni as creation of Indian intelligence agencies. Former Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah 24 March released after eight months in detention. Militant-related insecurity continued; militant attack in Baramulla district killed two including police officer 4 March; security forces 15 March killed four suspected Laskhar-e-Tayyaba and Hizbul Mujahideen militants during clash in Anantnag district; suspected militants 27 March shot dead civilian in Kulgam 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.
Even if India and Pakistan appear willing to allow more interaction across the Line of Control (LOC) that separates the parts of Kashmir they administer, any Kashmir-based dialogue will fail if they do not put its inhabitants first.
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.
More than five decades after independence, Pakistan is no closer to a resolution with India of the dispute over Kashmir.