|Photo Credit: flickr.com/Jack Zalium
Since the founding of India and Pakistan as separate states in 1947, the dispute over who should control Kashmir has been one of the world's most enduring and violent conflicts. In 1999, the two states came close to war over a border incursion by Muslim partisans into the Kargil region which borders Kashmir in India. According to the Indian government those involved were trained in and backed by Pakistan.
In 1998, both India and Pakistan successfully test-exploded nuclear devices, leading many to fear a new arms race. India claims it needs nuclear weapons in case of possible future confrontations with China, with whom it fought a border war in the 1960s. There are also signs of a religious conflict at play, pitting predominantly Hindu India against Muslim Pakistan. The US led war against neighboring Afghanistan is raising concerns that the conflict may escalate tensions in Kashmir as skirmishes between Indian and Pakistani forces are regularly reported along the Line of Control.
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A march protesting US drone strikes in Pakistan has set off from Islamabad to Waziristan. Despite rumors that local militants would attack the convoy, the protest, led by politician Imran Khan and supported by US anti-war group CODEPINK, was joined by demonstrators from the United States, Pakistan and around the world. The aim of the march is to put pressure on the US administration to acknowledge that the drone strikes are inhumane and counterproductive. (Common Dreams)
Stanford Law School and the NYU School of Law have just produced a report on the impact of the US drone campaign in Pakistan. The research, based on more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses, and experts, and a review of documentation and media reporting, shows how the US drone strike policies negatively impact civilians in Pakistan. Not only are the US drone strikes terrorizing civilian communities, they also push victims and relatives to join non-state groups, who are responsible for further violent attacks. Thus, the US drone campaign in Pakistan is both damaging and counterproductive.
For four years, skirmishes between US troops and the Taliban have increasingly driven thousands of people out of North Waziristan (NW) on the Pakistan-Afghan border. Nearly impossible to guard due to the mountainous terrain, the Durand Line (as the Pakistan-Afghan border is known) divides tribes and families. It has never been accepted by the Afghan government, and Pakistani officials also permit tribal movement across the porous border. Tens of thousands from NW fled after US drone strikes began regularly targeting militants from across the Afghan border, leaving civilian casualties and escalating tensions in the region. The Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre says there are now 980,000 displaced persons in Pakistan. (AlterNet)
The small hamlet of Bimbiyar, in the northern part of the Kashmir valley, is home to a mass graveyard, in which 250 unknown people have been buried since 2003. Most of the bodies, brought there by the local police, show marks of beatings and torture. Mass graves have become a common phenomenon in Kashmir. A group of human rights activists have published a report revealing that at least 2,900 unmarked graves of unidentified people are present in three northern districts of the Kashmir valley. But the number of mass graves could be even higher. (Countercurrents.org)
According to human rights organizations, the Pakistani government has intensified its attempt to stamp out an uprising by the Baluch ethnic minority over the last 18 months in an increasingly deadly crackdown on political and student national leaders. Although cases of torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings are mounting, Pakistan’s “Dirty War” receives little media attention internationally. A Baluch political leader has called on the US to end aid to the Pakistani Army, which, he said, was diverting resources from intended counterterrorism goals and using them to suppress the nationalists. Baluch demands range from greater control over Baluchistan’s gas and natural resources, fairer distribution of wealth, to outright independence. (New York Times)
Al Jazeera's Azad Essa interviews Aaliya Anjum, lecturer in law at University of Kashmir, about the state-sanctioned human rights violations in India-administered Kashmir, including extra-judicial killings, torture, and illegal detentions. There are currently 8,000 to 10,000 reported cases of enforced disappearances. Through special security legislation that sidesteps international human rights conventions, the Indian government grants its armed forces the “power” to shoot to kill or arrest persons based on suspicion alone. An arrested person may be held in custody for up to two years without trial, yet the army is immune from prosecution. According to Anjum, the state uses these laws as tools to curb dissent and suppress popular sentiment for freedom in Kashmir. (Al Jazeera)
Officials and analysts are calling the uprisings against the Indian government in Kashmir an "intifada." This name links the events in the contested region along the border of India and Pakistan to the earlier uprisings of Palestinians against Israeli occupying forces in the territories. The phrase also highlights that the uprisings are no longer led by trained militants and political factions. Rather, stone-throwing youths have taken to the streets chanting slogans such as, "We want freedom" and "India get out." Is this an appropriate application of the phrase "intifada" given the moral and legal dimensions of the conflict between India and Pakistan? (Christian Science Monitor)
Rivers feeding Pakistan and India are running through disputed Kashmir, and both countries are vying for the control of these increasingly valuable water resources. With their huge populations still growing and global warming affecting water availability and quality, India and Pakistan are considering access to water a vital interest. While the sharing of rivers could form a framework for cooperation, hawks on both sides are using water to create an insurmountable impasse in the dispute over Kashmir. (GlobalPost)
India and Pakistan have partially restored trade relations in Kashmir as a part of the peace process, which started in 2004. Although the resumed trade measures are minimal and more symbolic than practical, they contribute to confidence building and to the peace process in the region. (Inter Press Service)
India and Pakistan's dispute over Kashmir started in 1947 and led to wars between both countries in 1947, 1965 and 1971. The governments of India and Pakistan demonize each other as responsible for terrorism and they distort the history of the conflict in textbooks. This undermines the peace process and negatively influences Indian and Pakistani citizens living in Kashmir. (Harvard International Review)
A UN conference brought together over 250 diplomats, political experts and peace activists from India and Pakistan in search of a resolution to the 58-year old conflict over Kashmir. Pakistan's UN Ambassador Munir Akram observed "popular sentiment in favor of peace and normal relations between Pakistan and India," echoing Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri's statement that there has been much "progress on people to people contacts." Various political factors, such as a potential Security Council seat for India could push the peace process, and participants stressed that now is the time to pressure both governments. (Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty)
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will reduce the 500,000 troops currently in Kashmir in a move that could ease tensions between India and Pakistan. Singh said better counter-infiltration measures against Pakistani militants and the people's support for the "war against terrorism" has improved security in the region. Kashmiri separatists welcome the move but say that Indian troops continue to commit human rights abuses, acting more like an occupying power than like a security force. (Guardian)
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has called for a national debate to change Pakistan's Kashmir policy. Islamabad has long supported a plebiscite in Kashmir, but New Delhi rejects the solution. Musharraf now proposes demilitarization of the region followed by a change in status, which could include independence or joint control between India and Pakistan. Islamist groups in Pakistan have strongly rejected Musharraf's proposals. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
On September 24, 2004, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced proposed efforts for a "peaceful" and "negotiated" settlement on the Kashmir issue. However, they did not mention any role for the Kashmiri people in a settlement and both India and Pakistan have ignored Kashmiri calls for independence. Meanwhile, India has doubts over Pakistan's sincerity, and Pakistan sees India's stance as a possible ploy to gain a permanent seat on the Security Council. (truthout)
India is building a fence along the Line of Control, a 460 mile cease-fire line between Indian and Pakistani-held Kashmir. Although India insists that the fence aims to prevent Pakistani infiltrators from crossing into India, the barrier has the "symbolic potential" to "make the cease-fire line more like an international border." The fence separates some farmers from their fields and hampers movement but receives surprisingly muted opposition from Pakistan. (New York Times)
Following three years of impasse, India and Pakistan have resumed substantive peace talks and agreed to a "basic road map" for future peace negotiations. Despite continued divergence over the Kashmir issue, the Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokar has expressed hope that the "road map will eventually lead to the settlement of all outstanding disputes [...] in the direction of durable peace." (Washington Post)
Arms control advocates argue that "all external assistance" to India and Pakistan "frees resources for arms spending." Both countries divert huge portions of their budgets to their military buildup. But in terms of human development, both countries rank among the poorest third, as hardly any government money flows into social services such as education and health care programs. (Los Angeles Times)
Pakistan leader Pervez Musharraf insists that the Kashmir issue remains subject to Security Council resolutions, and he rejects India's claims on the territory. Musharraf also made the provocative declaration that India's approach does not reflect positively on a would-be Security Council member. (Pakistan News)
The Ambassador of Pakistan praised the role of the UN in facilitating the peace process with the South Pacific island of Bougainville, which seeks independence from Papua New Guinea. He calls for similar UN involvement in the long-simmering issue of Kashmir. (Pakistan News Service)
A report commissioned by the US Department of Defense states the strategic importance of Indian military infrastructure for the US and the establishment of US airbases in India. These enable Washington "to be able to touch the rest of the world," say US lieutenant generals. (Rediff)
India has threatened to adopt the US doctrine of pre-emption for Kashmir. Pakistan reacted by saying it would go to "any extent" to defend itself, while the UN remains inactive. "The UN needs a wake up call, they have to decide certain issues," says Pakistan's Prime Minister. (Hindustan Times)
India, Washington's closet strategic ally in the region, is drawing a link between US support for its position on Pakistan and its statements on the military invasion of Iraq. The US knows full well that the country is with the empire, not against it, says Foreign Policy In Focus.
Western nations have gradually lifted sanctions against both India and Pakistan as the two countries became allies in the "war on terror." However, the two countries continue escalating their nuclear arms race. (CNN)
India and Pakistan both test fired nuclear-capable missiles following a violent incident in the region of Kashmir, raising tensions on both sides. Previous tests caused international consternation, provoking economic sanctions by the US and other Western nations. (Guardian)
Addressing the UN Security Council, the Pakistani Ambassador has called on the UN to solve the Kashmir issue "in accordance with its resolutions and promises made to the people."(Pakistanlink)