May Indian Punjabis Pakistan
The conflict in Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan, is widening. Since the Indian government revoked the special status of the state it controlled Jammu and Kashmir on August 5th, there have been clashes between Indian security forces and the majority Muslim population. According to the Pakistani military, India is said to have killed six people in the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir on Thursday and Friday. Pakistan sees itself as the protective power of the Muslims in the region and, like India, claims all of Kashmir for itself. According to the military, Indian soldiers are said to have shot two civilians and four soldiers across the ceasefire line. News is difficult to get out, the region has been under an exit and news blackout imposed by India for almost two weeks.
The two warring states clash again and again in Kashmir, the dispute is one of the oldest conflicts in the modern world of states. Why is Kashmir the scene of the Indo-Pakistani arch enmity? The most important questions about the Kashmir conflict at a glance.
Which parties are facing each other in the conflict over the Kashmir region in the Himalayas?
The nuclear powers India and Pakistan play the central roles in the territorial dispute. After the end of British colonial rule, British India was divided into two successor states, India with a majority of Hindus and Sikhs and Pakistan with a predominantly Muslim population. The division did not take place peacefully. There was bloody violence between believers of both religions. Millions of people on both sides of the new border fled or were displaced and up to a million people were killed.
In the Kingdom of Kashmir, the ruling maharajah delayed joining one of the newly created states in the hope of being able to found its own independent state. But soon both India and Pakistan claimed the region for themselves. The Maharajah finally decided to join India, which Pakistan did not accept. In 1948 the first Kashmir war broke out. A ceasefire brokered by the United Nations followed, which led to the de facto division of the area between India and Pakistan. In 1965 Pakistan tried in vain to conquer Kashmir entirely. Since 1972 an armistice line, the so-called "Line of Control", has separated the conflict region.
Who controls which sub-area?
Kashmir shares borders with India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China. Since the division of British India, the southern part of the area has been under Indian control as the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In the northwest administered by Pakistan are the autonomous sub-region of Azad Kashmir and the special territory of Gilgit-Baltistan. The highland region of Aksai Chin northeast of Kashmir is occupied by China.
Why is the conflict currently breaking out again?
Observers assume that the renewed escalation of the Kashmir question will serve the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to realize his vision of a Hindu nationalist India. Most of the population in Kashmir still belongs to Islam. Modi's government fears that the Muslims there may have a dangerous interest in the archenemy, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
In a national radio address last Thursday, Modi said Pakistan was using the special status to turn the people of Kashmir against India. That is why New Delhi wants to reorganize the state of Jammu and Kashmir and place it under the Indian central government.
A first step was to withdraw the special status previously enshrined in the constitution from the state. Article 370, which was deleted by decree, has so far guaranteed the Indian part of Kashmir, among other things, its own constitution, its own flag and extensive rights of autonomy. "I have full confidence that we will all succeed under the new system in liberating Kashmir from terrorism and separatism," said Modi.
Apparently it should now also be possible for Indians to buy land in Kashmir. Local critics fear that this is a means of changing the majority situation in the local population. A former head of government in Jammu and Kashmir told the British broadcaster BBC that the Indian government wanted to make Muslims a minority. Because India expects resistance, tens of thousands of additional soldiers were sent to Kashmir at the beginning of August.
Pakistan reacted indignantly to India's actions. The government in Islamabad expelled the Indian ambassador. At the same time, she declared that she wanted to suspend bilateral trade, review agreements between and bring India's "illegal, unilateral" move before the UN Security Council.
What role does the religion of the population play?
Pakistan sees itself as a Muslim state and sees it as its task to stand up for the interests of the majority Muslim population in Kashmir. As a secular state, the religious affiliation of the inhabitants has no official significance for India, but the ruling party Bharatiya Janata pursues a Hindu-nationalist policy. For both countries, the Kashmir issue is also a question of their own national and religious identity. In the opinion of the South Asia expert Michael Mann from the Humboldt University in Berlin, it would be tantamount to "political suicide" if one of the rivals declared his renunciation of the region.
Why is the region repeatedly the target of terrorist attacks?
There are Muslim separatists in the Indian part of Kashmir who are advocating the annexation to Pakistan - sometimes with violence. Again and again there are fights and attacks. In September 2016, for example, terrorists attacked an Indian military base in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. 19 soldiers died in the attack. The assassins allegedly used Pakistani weapons and entered the state from Pakistani territory. India therefore accuses Islamabad of supporting terrorist attacks against India. India's Interior Minister Rajnath Singh said: "Pakistan is a terrorist state and should be identified and isolated as such."
Indeed, Pakistan is a haven for Kashmiri rebels and terrorists. In February 2019, for example, 40 Indian security forces were killed in an attack by the Pakistani terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed on a bus near Pulwana. In response, the Indian Air Force attacked a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. Shortly afterwards, Pakistan shot down an Indian jet.
The dialogue between India and Pakistan has largely stalled since 2016, and the relationship between the two states has deteriorated significantly since then.
How dangerous is the conflict?
India and Pakistan are two countries that are in possession of nuclear weapons. Both countries acquired their nuclear arsenal primarily because of the Kashmir conflict. In 1999 the "Kargil War" broke out - of all things after successful nuclear weapons tests in both countries. Fortunately, the weapons of mass destruction were not used. The conflict was only ended by US diplomatic intervention.
So far, nuclear weapons have primarily served both countries to create a threat. But there is concern that it will not stop there. Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan recently warned in parliament of military clashes between the two nuclear powers: "They may attack us again and we will fight back. ... Who will win this war? Nobody will win it and it will have grave consequences for them whole world. "
The situation in Kashmir is of course also dangerous for tourists. Because of terrorist violence, clashes between demonstrators and security forces and possible fighting between Indian and Pakistani troops, the Foreign Office "urgently" advises against traveling to Jammu and Kashmir.
How are the residents?
Residents are currently living under a curfew imposed by India. With a lockdown, New Delhi apparently wants to prevent counter-movements from the population, because many of the Muslims actually reject the Indian government. The people of Jammu and Kashmir currently have neither internet nor telephone access. Groceries are becoming scarce, shops, schools and banks are closed, there is a lack of medicines and the ATMs are empty. Despite the blockades and the presence of the security forces, there have been anti-Indian protests and riots every day. Young Kashmiri men threw stones at the police and soldiers, who responded with gunshots and tear gas.
On Thursday and Friday, the Pakistani military reported that Indian soldiers had shot dead six people in the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir. Accordingly, the security forces from Indian territory are said to have fired over the demarcation line.
What is the role of the international community?
Since January 1949, the United Nations and a military observation group (UNMOGIP) have been in the border region of Jammu and Kashmir. The mission is to monitor compliance with the ceasefire. According to the UN, however, only 45 soldiers from ten nations were stationed for the mission in Kashmir in March 2019. German soldiers were not among them. Given the small number of staff, the mission is considered to be hardly effective.
A referendum on the Kashmir issue called for by the UN Security Council in 1948 has not yet taken place. India, according to South Asia expert Michael Mann, is betting on a bilateral solution to the problem with Pakistan, "with the exclusion of representatives of Kashmiri groups and without international mediators". Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi called on the international community to take note of the "atrocities and human rights violations of India in Kashmir" in the face of the renewed escalation.
It was only in July that US President Donald Trump offered to act as a mediator in Kashmir. "It's such a beautiful name. It's supposed to be such a beautiful part of the world. But right now there are only bombs everywhere." However, India clearly rejected the offer and insisted on its position of only wanting to resolve the conflict bilaterally.
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