Guns fall si­lent, but ten­sions high be­tween In­dia, Pak­istan

Nu­clear-armed neigh­bors amp up ar­tillery

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

An un­easy calm has fallen over the de facto border be­tween the In­dian and Pak­istani-con­trolled por­tions of Kash­mir af­ter months of deadly fir­ing and signs that the two coun­tries were en­gaged in a brinkman­ship not seen for decades. Though guns have gone si­lent for the past five days, an­a­lysts say the two nu­clear-armed neigh­bors have dis­played un­prece­dented ag­gres­sion this year with­out pur­su­ing any real lines of diplo­macy. They’ve amped up the ar­tillery they’ve used and tar­geted in­fra­struc­ture in­stead of just mil­i­tary out­posts. The corpses of sol­diers killed in bat­tle have been found mu­ti­lated. “The level of re­tal­i­a­tion was def­i­nitely more in­tense than what In­dia has done in the past,” said de­fense an­a­lyst C Uday Bhaskar of the New Delhi-based think tank So­ci­ety for Pol­icy Stud­ies.

“There is a dan­ger of it spi­ral­ing out of con­trol,” Bhaskar said. “If both sides de­cide that nei­ther side will blink, then the col­lat­eral dam­age will only in­crease.” That could also mean re­call­ing diplo­mats, halt­ing the buses fer­ry­ing peo­ple back and forth across the border, or stop­ping all trade. In 2015, bilateral trade amounted to just $2.6 bil­lion - far below the $10.9 bil­lion In­dian gov­ern­ment economists say is pos­si­ble un­der nor­mal re­la­tions. In­dia and Pak­istan have long been foes, fight­ing two of their three wars over their ri­val claims to the Hi­malayan re­gion of Kash­mir. Count­less rounds of peace talks have yielded scant re­sults.

The two sides reached a cease-fire agree­ment in 2003 which held for the first few years, but has seen fre­quent vi­o­la­tions since then. Mean­while, In­dia ac­cuses Pak­istan of arm­ing and train­ing Kash­miri rebels fight­ing to oust In­dia from the Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity re­gion. Pak­istan de­nies the al­le­ga­tion, say­ing it of­fers the rebels only moral sup­port, and ac­cuses In­dia of an il­le­gal mil­i­tary oc­cu­pa­tion of the dis­puted moun­tain ter­ri­tory. Ten­sions be­gan build­ing this year as Kash­miri civil­ians on the In­dian-con­trolled side rose up in re­bel­lion, de­mand­ing in­de­pen­dence or a merger with Pak­istan. Vi­o­lent street protests and clashes with In­dian forces left 90 civil­ians dead and thou­sands in­jured. Line of Con­trol, the de facto border that di­vides Kash­mir into the sep­a­rate ter­ri­to­ries ad­min­is­tered by In­dia and Pak­istan. Pak­istan, along with some res­i­dents near the border, ac­cused In­dia of us­ing the Uri at­tack to ramp up border hos­til­i­ties in or­der to dis­tract at­ten­tion from the pub­lic protests within In­dian-con­trolled Kash­mir.

Bol­ly­wood films banned

As the shelling in­ten­si­fied, schools near the fron­tier were shut down in­def­i­nitely. Farm­ers aban­doned their crops to rot. Pak­istani cinemas banned Bol­ly­wood films, while In­dian film­mak­ers vowed to never hire Pak­istani ac­tors. Last week, the body of one of three In­dian sol­diers killed by rebels was found mu­ti­lated, a month af­ter an­other In­dian sol­dier was found be­headed. In­dian mil­i­tary of­fi­cers, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity in line with mil­i­tary rules, ac­knowl­edged the ten­sions have es­ca­lated to the high­est level since the cease-fire came into ef­fect. “Our re­ac­tion time is swift and se­vere. It’s no more wait and watch, no more hold your fire to see what the higher bosses have to say,” an army of­fi­cer in Kash­mir said. — AP

KASH­MIR: In­dian army sol­diers pa­trol near the highly mil­i­ta­rized Line of Con­trol di­vid­ing Kash­mir be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan, in Pal­lan­wal sec­tor, about 75 kilo­me­ters (46.8 miles) from Jammu, In­dia. — AP

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