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.
Deadliest terror attack in over 30 years in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Indian and Pakistani airstrikes across Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir), first since 1971 India-Pakistan war, led to spike in tensions between India and Pakistan and within J&K, with fears of further escalation. Pakistani-based Jaish-e-Muhammad 14 Feb launched suicide car bomb attack on convoy of Indian paramilitaries in Pulwama district, 30km from capital Srinagar, killing some 45 security personnel. Govt imposed curfew, sent thousands of paramilitary personnel to region, and detained some 200 opposition leaders and supporters of separatist parties. Security forces claimed to have killed two top Jaish-e-Muhammad in Pulwama 18 Feb, and three in Kulgam district 24 Feb; several members of security forces also killed during security operations. Separatists in J&K held strikes in protest at operations; New Delhi 17 Feb removed security protection from five separatist leaders, prompting fears that attack on separatist leadership could further destabilise region. Indian govt accused Pakistan of complicity in 14 Feb attack, with PM Modi warning of “befitting reply” and giving security forces “permission to take decisions about the timing, place and nature of their response”; Pakistan rejected role in attack; both sides withdrew diplomats. Pakistani PM Khan 19 Feb offered to cooperate in investigation but warned of immediate retaliation if attacked. Indian air force 26 Feb claimed to have carried out “pre-emptive” airstrikes on Jaish-e-Muhammad training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, claiming to have killed “large number” of militants. Pakistan military denied Indian airstrikes had caused casualties and responded with airstrikes across LoC 27 Feb, claiming to have shot down two Indian planes in Pakistan airspace, and capturing pilot; India claimed to have shot down Pakistani fighter jet in Indian-Kashmir. China and EU urged both nations to show restraint, calling on Pakistan to end support for jihadist groups; U.S. warned further military action by both countries posed “unacceptably high” escalation risks. Supreme Court 22 Feb called on authorities to protect Kashmiris facing intimidation and attacks in Hindu-majority J&K and other northern Indian states. *This entry was corrected on 2 March 2019 to place Balakot in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, not Azad Jammu and Kashmir, as first reported by Pakistan.
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.