South Asia at Cross Road
In the “Valley of Death” innocent civilians are in India’s crosshairs; Kashmiris continue to pay with their lives for blatant Indian belligerence. “Situation in Kashmir is extremely grim and fast deteriorating by the day.”
Over 60 civilians have been brutally killed by forces in the last many months. According to various tweets by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq “killings and repression is causing havoc especially in south Kashmir. The situation has turned extremely critical with unabated civilian killings by Indian forces.” Pellet gun bullets are causing serious eye injuries which have blinded twenties of youth. “Each killing of our children like 14-year old Umar Kumhar of Wangam, Shopian, deepens our grief and pain we mourn.” An Indian army jeep crushed to death Adil Ahmad in Srinagar, while indiscriminate fire injured a number of civilians. “Words fail to express the pain of the tragedy unfolding in Shopian as the count of the brutally killed by Indian forces keeps rising.”
Indian police fire tear gas, water cannons and pellet bullets on the agitators who take to the streets in protest at the killings by Indian soldiers. Indian authorities have shut schools and suspended internet services as tension mounted over the shooting of civilians at military checkpoints in southern Kashmir. Indian troops martyred youth in Pulwama district during a siege and search operation at Lethpora of Awantipora area in the district.
According to latest figures gathered from various sources, over 95,000 Kashmiris have been martyred since the start of uprising – 72,074 purportedly in fake encounters, while 143,585 have been arrested. Indian military men raped thousands of women;there are 23,964 widows in the valley, whereas 108,786 children have been orphaned. Unearthing of mass graves by human rights organizations loudly speaks of Indian barbarism. Since Burhan Wani’s martyrdom on July 8, 2016, which triggered powerful uprising in Kashmir, Indian forces are using modern weapons including pallet guns which have blinded countless Kashmiris.
International press is only able to partially cover the brutal incidents of state barbarism because media has been denied access to the valley of death. New York Times alone has highlighted the issue as follows: Deadly Fighting Erupts in Kashmir (Dec 20, 2017), Cross-Border Clashes in Kashmir Leave 7 Soldiers Dead: On the same day Pakistan allowed an Indian accused of spying a visit from his family, three Pakistani soldiers were killed in Kashmir. (Dec 26) Militants Storm Indian Army Base, Killing Soldiers and a Civilian: It was one of the deadliest attacks on the army in recent years, and Indian officials quickly blamed a group based in Pakistan. (Feb 11) Journalist or Terrorist? Kashmir Photographer Is Jailed, Pending Answer: The Indian authorities say a young conflict photographer in Kashmir conspired against them. But journalists insist he was jailed to silence him. (Feb 20) Indian Court Grants Bail to Kashmiri Photographer Held on Terrorism Charge: Kamran Yousuf, a photographer, was granted bail after a court said the Indian authorities had failed to submit enough evidence to detain him. (Mar 14) Deadly Clashes in Kashmir Between Indian Army and Militants: Rebels in the territory suffered their worst day of casualties in years, with a dozen killed. At least three soldiers and four civilians also died. (Apr 1) An 8-Year-Old’s Rape and Killing Fuels Religious Tensions in India: Hindu nationalists are rallying to the defense of men accused in the death of a young girl. They say the police can’t be trusted because some are Muslim. (Apr 11) Modi’s Long Silence as Women in India Are Attacked: He expresses no outrage as his extremist backers are linked to violence. (Apr 17) Where 8-Year-Old Was Raped and Killed, Hindus Rally Around Suspects: Protests of outrage over the crime have erupted across India. But in the village where she was killed, people have lined up behind the accused men. (Apr 24)
Indian forces, on the other hand, resort to unprovoked firing, almost daily, on the Line of Control and Working Boundary, using heavy automatic weapons and rockets, killing twenties and injuring hundreds. In January-February 2018 alone, Indian forces carried out more than 400 ceasefire violations, resulting in death of 19 civilians and injuries to 69 others. From 2014 to 2016 India violated ceasefire 1881 times – 315 times in 2014, 248 times in 2015 and 2016 times in 2016, which in total martyred 300 and injured 1121 Pakistanis including mostly civilian citizens. This is in comparison to 1062 violations of Ceasefire Agreement from 2003 to 2013: 11 times in 2003, 6 times in 2004, 9 times in 2006, 18 times in 2007, 30 times in 2008, 46 times in 2009, 113 times in 2010, 104 times in 2011, 282 times in 2012 and 464 times in 2013. A gradual upward trend shows how Modi government is taking to brink.
Later in February the defence attaches of US, UK, France, China, Turkey and Indonesia visited LoC in Rawalakot sector of AJ&K and interacted with the victims to gain firsthand knowledge of Indian belligerence and sufferings of citizens. Ironically, in response to foreign dignitaries’ visit India instead stepped up violence in the Held Valley and unprovoked firing on LoC. The firing next day in Bhimber sector resulted in martyrdom of two Pakistan army Soldiers – Sepoy Aamir Hussain and Sepoy Munir Chohan. This is enough evidence to establish the fact that Kashmir continues to bleed as India continues to mislead the world by denying access to media, HRW, AI, UN observers group, HR activists, and by unleashing ‘effective’ propaganda through print and electronic media, diplomacy and charm offensive. It’s unfortunate enough that the reports of kidnapping, extrajudicial killing, rape, arson, torture, shock and awe are hardly believed or heeded.
Alarm bells are ringing for the international community, especially OIC and the Arab world, to take cognizance of the seriousness of briskly changing situation between the two nuclear armed neighbors. Modi government’s high officials and state media are trumpeting war drums. Most recently, in response to nonstop atrocities against innocent civilians, freedom fighters attacked an Indian military camp in IOK, which claimed seven Indian troops. Within no time New Delhi alleged Pakistan for colluding the attack. Defence Minister Nirmala Sithraman threatened Pakistan of dire consequences, “Pakistan will pay the price for this misadventure.” Indian Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat threatened to avenge the military camp attack “very soon.” He’s challenging Pakistan “in an immature manner” to use its nuclear weapons. Indian forces are ready for war and surgical strike(s) anywhere inside Pakistani territory “to call Pakistan nukes a bluff”.
The Indian armed forces Joint Doctrine 2017 explicitly acknowledges use of “surgical strikes” as a formal part of India’s retaliatory toolkit, validates the existence of India’s Cold Start Doctrine and highlights its shift in nuclear strategy from “Credible Minimum Deterrence” to “Credible Deterrence”. As observers watch, India is all out “to harm Pakistan through kinetic and non-kinetic means” and here the world needs to intervene before it is too late. New Delhi sees China Pakistan Economic Corridor as harmful to its interests. Its National Security Advisor has openly announced that India would deter Pakistan from building this ‘regional game-changer’ at all costs.
Pakistan on the other hand repeatedly urges the Indian side “to respect the 2003 ceasefire arrangement; investigate this and other incidents of ceasefire violations; instruct the Indian forces to respect the ceasefire, in letter and spirit, and maintain peace on the LoC and the Working Boundary.” India has also been asked “to permit UN observers to play their mandated role as per the Security Council resolutions.” While addressing a session on Kashmir hosted at the House of Commons in London on March 1, President of AJ&K Sardar Masood Khan called upon the United Kingdom, as well as the world community, to raise the human rights violations in IOK before India. “The UK, in its capacity as a permanent member of UNSC, should play its leadership role in sensitizing the world body about the fast deteriorating security situation along LoC.” He pleaded for higher visibility for the Kashmir dispute in the British Parliament and underlined the need for international intervention through UN for the resolution of dispute.
Labour Party while including commitment on Kashmir in its election manifesto urged the House of Commons to help resolve the dispute “since the British have the responsibility of resolving the unfinished agenda.” Saner elements within India also urge New Delhi to fulfil the promise made with Kashmiris. Dr Arundhati Roy and Mani Shankar Ayer recently called for justice to Kashmiris.
Kashmir is world’s biggest and longest standing political as well as human rights issue, to which UN Resolutions contain abiding commitment to Kashmiri people’s right of self-determination. Very start of freedom struggle in IOK was the consequence of (a) India not heeding to Kashmiris’ right of plebiscite demand, (b) UN failing to implement SC Resolutions, and (c) world failing to exert enough pressure on India to stop genocide in Kashmir.
Why India is hell bent upon taking the situation to the brink while it knows an aggressive posture can prove to be a strategic miscalculation? India’s Joint Doctrine 2017 aims to kill two birds with one stone. The 900km-long LoC built in three layers within wide stretch of 3 km makes any likely infiltration from Pakistan side. So why perpetrate reign of terror in Occupied Valley, and stage-manage Mumbai-like attacks? Clearly India ploys to declare Pakistan terror-sponsor nation and mislead the world against the CPEC objectives. So, India has launched a three-pronged war with Pakistan: one, to foment insurgencies within parts of Pakistan, including Balochistan; two to use TTP and Daesh for terror attacks from Afghanistan’s side; and three, to engage Pakistan directly through limited war.
Brian Cloughley however warns India, saying, “to engage Pakistan in a limited war is a far cry. Man-for-man it (Pakistan army) will hammer any opponent, no matter if the skies are filled with (enemy) bombers”. According to an NYT editorial, “despite India being a bigger country, it stands to lose much more in any future war with Pakistan. It is not to brag about Pakistani military’s superiority. It is just to warn India not to be carried away by superficial content and take a plunge into some expansive misadventure endangering the peace of the entire region. Nothing is worth taking that risk.”
India’s Kashmir ‘blitzkrieg’ is directed not only at disrupting CPEC, but also eying to hijack world’s economic interests in the Arabian Sea. The magnitude of unrest in Kashmir, volatility of situation on LoC, transfer of Afghan terror into Pakistan, and fueling of hatred in Balochistan lead to believe that Pakistan is the major hurdle in India’s “Counter-China, “Policeman-Role” and “Expansionist Design” – from Strait of Malacca to Persian Gulf.
CPEC is an opportunity that is not only meant to benefit all countries of Asian region, but also connect the oldest civilizations on earth globe – from Samurai in China, Ashoka in Hazara, Gandhara in KPK-Punjab, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa in Sindh and 7000-year old Mehrgarh civilization in Balochistan. Since Lasbela-Gwadar route is also called the Gateway of India for Muhammad bin Qasim-led Arabs, whom the subcontinent is indebted for civilizational, cultural and religious transformation, today’s Gulf States leader have special interest in the planes of Balochistan and Cholistan. With Gwadar emerging as a sister city of Dubai, the future of this region may herald in an era of economic development and prosperity.
Connecting the lost dots is an opportunity. Resolving of Kashmir dispute holds the key. Let’s not miss it.
(The author is freelance columnist)