One year ago, India rescinded constitutional provisions giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the disputed territory also claimed by Pakistan. Kashmiri militancy is growing, often with Pakistani encouragement. Allies should urge New Delhi to relax its clampdown and Islamabad to stop backing jihadist proxies.
Ceasefire continued to hold along Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir), while insecurity persisted inside Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). India-Pakistan relations seemed to ease as details on backchannel talks emerged and both sides respected LoC ceasefire. After Islamabad 31 March announced resumption of trade ties with India, suspended since Aug 2019, Pakistan’s PM Khan 1 April backtracked and 4 April said there would be “no normalisation of relations with India until it reversed its illegal actions” in J&K. Media report 23 April indicated Pakistan expects India to take first step in creating “enabling environment” for dialogue, for example by releasing political prisoners, easing movement, or reducing military presence. United Arab Emirates (UAE) 14 April confirmed for first time their mediation role in Feb agreement in which India and Pakistan pledged to respect ceasefire along LoC. U.S. National Intelligence Council 7 April warned India and Pakistan may stumble into large-scale war neither side wants, “especially following a terrorist attack that the Indian government judges to be significant”. Inside J&K, attack on ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader 1 April killed one police officer. Security forces next day killed three militants in Pulwama district, including two allegedly involved in BJP leader attack. Anti-India protests erupted in response to operation, injuring at least four civilians. Militants 9 April shot dead soldier in Anantnag district. Security forces 11 April killed five militants in Anantnag and Shopian districts. Militants same day killed civilian in Budgam district. Police 13 April arrested two alleged militants and three alleged militant sympathisers in Kupwara district; authorities next day arrested alleged militant and three alleged sympathisers in Kulgram district, and alleged militant in Budgam district 24 April. Police 15-16 April arrested and fired female special police officer for “glorifying terrorism” and “obstructing” security operation in Kulgram district, and arrested teacher in Bandipora district for allegedly supporting Laskhar-e-Tayyaba group. J&K police chief Vijay Kumar early April advised journalists to avoid live media coverage of security operations against militants or protests; J&K’s press club responded that “any such attack on press freedom and journalism is highly distressful”.
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.