Guns fall silent, but tensions high between India, Pakistan
Nuclear-armed neighbors amp up artillery
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