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.
Relations between Pakistan and India remained tense with continued clashes across Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir), while within Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Indian security forces continued repression of separatists. In cross-LoC clashes, Pakistan claimed Indian fire killed three soldiers and one civilian 2 April and one civilian 15 April, while claiming retaliatory Pakistani fire killed five Indian troops 5 April. India 18 April suspended cross-LoC trade claiming it was used by “Pakistan-based elements” to traffic weapons, drugs and money. Pakistan 27 March formally rejected India’s dossier holding militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed responsible for Feb attack on Indian security forces in J&K, saying it failed to prove involvement of Pakistan-based elements and asking for further evidence. Pakistan FM Qureshi 2 April asked U.S. to broker dialogue with India and 7 April said govt had informed UN Security Council that India intended to launch attack inside Pakistan later in month. Inside J&K, suppression continued with over 1,000 people reportedly arrested since deadly Feb attack; security forces 25 April claimed to have killed two militants in gunfight in Anantnag district (centre). J&K residents 18 April voted in general election amid calls from separatists for boycott and threats from militants, and reports of clashes between protesters and security forces; reported turnout 45.5% in J&K but under 10% in some constituencies including Srinagar. Ruling-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 8 April released election manifesto supporting abrogation of articles 35-A and 370 of Constitution that give J&K special status, while main opposition Indian National Congress committed to amending law that gives impunity to special forces in J&K.
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.