Kashmir Crisis Raises Fear of Intensified India-Pakistan Conflict
Last week, India took a controversial decision to cancel the special status of the disputed region of Kashmir and sent thousands of troops to prevent any possible unrest. The Muslim-dominated region has been a major source of tension between India and Pakistan since the partition between the two countries (known as the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir) took place in 1947.
The move by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi prompted loud protests from the Pakistani Prime Minister, raising tensions between Minister Imran Khan and other Pakistani leaders and the two nuclear powers. Meanwhile, the voice of Kashmiris has remained largely unheard of, as government officials have cut off almost all communications from the region.USIP’s South Asia experts discuss what India did now to make this decision, how Pakistan responded and what the US could do to ease tensions.
What led to India’s decision to remove Jammu and Kashmir ’s special status? What’s going on there now?
Singh: While there is some question about the exact timing, the Modi government has long tried to Kashmir’s status in an attempt to integrate the restive region. Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party have long viewed Kashmir’s exemption from many provisions of the Indian Constitution as an obstacle to stability and development that has promoted extremism and terrorism.
India sees this decision as a strictly internal matter, but concern about some developments in the region may be a factor in time. Specifically, Us efforts to broker for a peace deal with the Taliban and withdraw from Afghanistan remind Indian leaders of Pakistani-backed militancy that erupted in Kashmir was in the early 1990s after the Soviet Union left Afghanistan.
Leaders in Delhi believe that Pakistan will again create pressure from behind the Kashmiri proxies when the Taliban return to Afghanistan. Making Kashmir a Union Territory helps to remove the politics there and manage any increase in extremism. To extend the validity of its decision, the Modi government sought and received parliamentary approval with more than two-thirds majority in both the chambers.
Government of India took unprecedented security measures
In terms of the situation now, the Government of India took unprecedented security measures with the announcement. These included driving out tourists; Phone, internet, and television service cutting; Curfew; And detaining an unknown number of residents, including current and former political leaders.
The government claims that these steps were needed to protect human lives and prevent incidents like the violence that killed dozens of people in 2016. Many Indian media outlets are reporting from Kashmir and showing calm, including Indian Independence Day. Average Kashmiri citizens and their detained leaders, however, most cannot be contacted. The Supreme Court of India delayed any action on the claim that the move was unconstitutional for two weeks.
Whether the government can normalize the situation and take extraordinary security measures will be a major indication of how their dramatic action will actually go. While engaging in substantial diplomatic efforts to explain the moves of neighbors, Indian leaders have mostly ignored Pakistani complaints.
How has Pakistan responded?
Cookman: Pakistani leaders across the political spectrum have condemned India’s move to revoke Kashmir’s special constitutional status, calling it the U.N. Described as a violation of Security Council resolutions aimed at controlling the disputed status of the area. Prime Minister Khan and top military leaders have huddled many times to plan Pakistan’s response, and have issued several statements condemning the actions of the Modi government and countering it.
The threat of war and terrorism
Prime Minister Khan has warned about the growing threat of war and terrorism, but has accused India of seeking internal action on Pakistan for domestic reaction within Kashmir to its own internal crackdown, and denying that Pakistan would seek to initiate a conflict. Indian officials, in turn, have justified their move as a response to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir. Cross-border fire exchanges between the two militants along the Line of Control continue, although not yet indicative of dramatic new mobilizations.
So far, the Pakistani response has been primarily been symbolic or diplomatic in nature. Public statements by Khan and other civil and military leaders appear aimed as much for foreign consumption as domestic, as Pakistan attempts to mobilize international support and complete a change in the status quo by its larger neighbor. Khan and other Foreign Ministry officials have reached a range of allies seeking support for China, including the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the US and UK China supported Pakistan’s call for a UN Security Council meeting on the issues.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has curtailed diplomatic relations with New Delhi to recall its ambassador and prevent the posting of its Indian counterpart. It has also cut rail links and partially imposed overflow restrictions, and suspended bilateral trade; Although the volume involved was minimal from the point of view of both economies., close trade relations have often been cited as a potential tradeoff for the final normalization of relations.
What role can the U.S. play in de-escalating tensions over the standoff on Kashmir?
Olson: As the US has learned the hard way recently, the possibilities of formal mediation of the Kashmir dispute are almost nil, as India denies that the dispute has an international dimension and rejects the role of any third party Does. Pakistan understands that adamant India’s opposition makes a clear American role impossible. Any more public offers of mediation would simply undercut whatever credibility the U.S. retains.
First priority for US policymakers and diplomats is to make it clear
Given that reality, the first priority for US policymakers and diplomats is to make it clear to Pakistan to resist any temptation to support proxy forces in cross-border attacks. In fact, the US should urge Pakistan to continue its crackdown on Lashkar-e-Taiba and other terrorist groups, suggesting that any retrogression will have a serious impact on both bilateral relations – which are slowly improving as well as support for Pakistan in multilateral financial institutions.
These demarches will be complicated by the ongoing need to support the peace process in Afghanistan. Pakistan feels is right to take advantage of the US, however, in order to avoid a possible confrontation between nuclear power states. There is a need to take a strategic approach. Pushes Pakistan to avoid proxy war on both fronts.
That said that given the flood situation in the Kashmir Valley and despite US pressure, it is likely that violent attacks will occur, and some may be detected by terrorists based in Pakistan. Should such resentment occur, Washington should not shy away from its role as the actual crisis manager. The US plays the role of a quiet “good office” so that de-escalation action can be taken on both sides and press Pakistan to rein in violent actors.
This requires less significant diplomacy at the local level, which is coordinated between our embassies in Islamabad and Delhi supported by Washington. Over time, such quiet diplomacy can facilitate some sort of discreet back-channel dialogue between Islamabad and Delhi.
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