Kashmir crisis 2019: Between a rock and a hard place

Pakistani children shout anti-Indian slogan during a protest against the lockdown in Indian-controlled Kashmir in Islamabad on December 10, 2019, on Human Rights day

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AFP

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Kids in Pakistan protest in opposition to the lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir

The yr 2019 has been one in all dramatic political eruptions in Kashmir, a Himalayan area divided between and disputed by Pakistan and India.

A climax of kinds got here in August when the Indian authorities amended its legal guidelines to annex the a part of Kashmir it controls, leaving the world in shock.

However Kashmir is a area used to upheaval: India and Pakistan fought three wars right here since their independence from British colonial rule in 1947, and a Pakistan-backed Islamist insurgency has been raging throughout the area in undulating waves because the 1980s, leaving greater than 70,000 folks lifeless.

Why was 2019 so unnerving for the area?

This yr began with an assault linked to the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group. In February, a 22-year-old resident of Pulwama district in Indian-administered Kashmir, who had gone lacking a yr earlier, drove an explosives-laden car into a military convoy, killing greater than 40 Indian troopers and himself.

JeM’s quickly claimed the assault and posted a video of the bomber on-line.

The Pulwama assault led to India’s first cross-border strike on Pakistani territory because the two nations’ 1971 warfare. On 26 February, Indian jets flew into the Balakot area and bombed what they described as a JeM coaching centre.

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Media captionBalakot: India launches air strike in Pakistan

The air skirmishes that adopted led to the downing of not less than two Indian jets, and the seize of 1 Indian fighter pilot by Pakistan. It was good optics for Pakistan, main some worldwide observers to conclude that it had come out on high within the Balakot battle.

Nonetheless, Islamabad was fast to return the captured pilot as a “goodwill gesture”, appreciated by some quarters overseas, however seen by many in Pakistan as an try to forestall additional escalation for which the nation’s army was not ready.

Pakistan went a step additional and launched what it mentioned was a transfer to close down places of work of militant teams in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, apparently to appease worldwide opinion within the face of a rising menace from India.

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In the meantime, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi – a right-wing Hindu nationalist – used each Pulwama and the Balakot strikes to mobilise electoral help at dwelling, profitable a landslide victory in elections three months later.

His transfer in August to annex Kashmir got here on the wings of that victory, which gave him an unassailable majority in parliament.

However as soon as once more, there was no comparable response from Pakistan. The federal government of Prime Minister Imran Khan has confined itself to holding rallies and issuing statements expressing help for Kashmiris.

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Media captionMr Khan instructed the BBC he needs a dialogue with India over Kashmir

The nation’s army spokesman, in the meantime, reported on the excessive morale of Pakistani troops on the borders, whereas publicising visits of high army officers to troops deployed on the Line of Management (LoC), the de facto border between Indian- and Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

The federal government has, nevertheless, moved to frustrate makes an attempt by nationalist teams in search of to mobilise widespread help in opposition to the Indian transfer.

This was in proof in early October when Pakistani forces stopped nationalist protesters from crossing into Indian-administered Kashmir regardless of the protesters’ argument that their proper to free motion throughout Kashmir was protected below the UN resolutions.

“We’re caught between a rock and a tough place,” says Zulfiqar Ali, a former journalist and campaigner for Kashmiri rights. “India was all the time an enemy to the Kashmiri folks, however Pakistan too hasn’t accomplished them proper.”

How did the dispute develop over the many years?

Earlier than Indian independence in 1947, Kashmir was a Muslim-majority state dominated by a Hindu prince. However when India was partitioned to create the Muslim state of Pakistan, the prince was reluctant to affix both, preferring to remain unbiased.

The primary battle got here shortly afterwards, when Pakistan despatched in armed tribal proxies from the north-west to overthrow the prince. Pushed right into a nook, the prince then signed accession to India.

The battle led to a territorial division of Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Pakistan later ceded a small portion of it to China.

India, which was then dominated by the secular, left-of-the-centre Congress social gathering, didn’t take the Maharaja’s accession without any consideration and in June 1948, it went to the United Nations to rearrange for a plebiscite – or vote – so the Kashmiri folks might resolve which of the three choices granted below the 1947 settlement they wished to take.

Nonetheless, the post-partition acrimony between India and Pakistan prevented them from agreeing on a number of factors important to carry a plebiscite.

In the meantime, as parliamentary democracy continued in India, the method of political decision-making in Pakistan slipped into the arms of the army, which had repercussions for the Kashmir dispute.

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Pakistani troopers in Kashmir close to the border in 1979

In 1965, Pakistan despatched hundreds of regulars dressed as Kashmiri villagers to incite an anti-India rebellion. The transfer triggered the second India-Pakistan warfare, which resulted in a Pakistani defeat.

Throughout the 1980s, Pakistan pumped in hundreds of hardened Islamist militants to conduct a decade-long terror marketing campaign, which it needed to deliver below management following the 9/11 assaults in the USA.

Might a brand new type of nationalism emerge?

On a smaller scale and in much less seen modes, Islamist militancy continues to have a footprint in Kashmir.

Dr Nazir Gilani, a Kashmiri lawyer who heads a Kashmiri advocacy group based mostly within the UK, blames the Pakistani management for undermining probabilities of a UN-led decision as a result of its failure “to know the jurisprudence of the Kashmir problem”.

However others say the Pakistani institution made up its thoughts a very long time in the past that the one answer acceptable to it might be Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. The nation’s imaginative and prescient of Islamic nationhood collided with the concept Kashmiris must be allowed to hunt independence on grounds of secular nationalism.

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“When Pakistan launched grownup franchise in its a part of Kashmir again in 1970s, it made it incumbent on contesting candidates to signal a pledge of loyalty to Pakistan, which nonetheless stays an ordinary process,” says Afrasiab Khattak, a lawyer, politician and former head of the unbiased Human Rights Fee of Pakistan (HRCP).

This has successfully shut the doorways of political course of in Pakistani-administered Kashmir on nationalists who help Kashmir’s independence from each India and Pakistan.

“Throughout the 1980s, Pakistan initially backed a secular Kashmiri nationalist group, the Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Entrance [JKLF], to begin a preferred rebellion in opposition to Indian rule. However this was a calculated transfer. That they had failed in 1965 to attain this goal, and believed that they had nothing to lose,” he added.

“However when the rebellion unfold, Islamabad began having second ideas and despatched in its Islamist proxies to hit each the Indian pursuits and the JKLF ranks.”

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Media captionIndia formally divides Jammu and Kashmir state

So what lies in retailer for India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris over the following yr?

The outburst of anger in Kashmir, and the best way it has been sustained during the last 4 months, is important.

Mr Khattak believes that post-annexation, a brand new part of Kashmiri nationalism is more likely to surge. Its success will rely on the extent to which these nationalists can rid their motion of its jihadist legacy, he says.

Zulfiqar Ali agrees: “Kashmiris have come to grasp that they can not rely on exterior powers to win freedom. There’s additionally a realisation that the motion must be completely indigenous and non-violent.

“As a lot of the nationalist management is both in Indian jails or overseas, a brand new management from among the many youth is more likely to emerge. The has already been occurring because the 2016 killing of Burhani Wani, which sparked spontaneous protests and which have sustained.”

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