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.
Amid heightened rhetoric and threats, clashes continued between Indian and Pakistani forces along Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir). Following late-Dec clashes that left several dead on both sides and Indian army chief’s 31 Dec warning that India reserved right “to pre-emptively strike” at sources of terror threat inside Pakistan for Islamabad’s “policy of state-sponsored terrorism”, Pakistan’s military spokesperson 14 Jan tweeted Indian statements were “irresponsible rhetoric with implications for regional peace and stability”; in 11 Jan tweet, spokesperson said Pakistani army “fully prepared to respond to any act of Indian aggression”. Indian PM Modi 28 Jan said India would need “week to ten days” to defeat Pakistan if war broke out; Pakistan’s military spokesperson 30 Jan responded “India will start the war, but we will end it”. UN Security Council 15 Jan reviewed situation in Indian-administered Kashmir in closed door meeting requested by China; same day, Chinese ambassador to UN said Beijing recognised Kashmir as territory disputed between India and Pakistan. Next day, Indian govt spokesperson said China should keep to “global consensus on Kashmir and avoid raising” issue at UN. Within Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), security forces 25 Jan killed three militants, including Jaish-e-Mohammed commander Qari Yasir, in clash in Pulwama district; police 31 Jan killed three suspected militants in gunfight on Jammu-Srinagar highway. Govt 24 Jan restored limited internet services, suspended since 5 Aug; previously, Indian Supreme Court 10 Jan ruled internet shutdown unconstitutional but did not direct restoral of all internet. Diplomats from fifteen countries including U.S. visited Kashmir 9-10 Jan, first diplomatic visit since India’s 5 Aug revoking of J&K’s special constitutional status and initiation of lockdown; EU diplomats declined invitation, reportedly asking for “freedom to meet people unescorted”. Late-Dec J&K Congress president, senior VP and former minister placed under house arrests before visit to southern Kashmir; police 12 Jan arrested Davinder Singh – senior police officer who met diplomats 9 Jan – and two Kashmiri militants from Hizbul Mujahideen accompanying him, in southern Kashmir.
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.