One year ago, India rescinded constitutional provisions giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the disputed territory also claimed by Pakistan. Kashmiri militancy is growing, often with Pakistani encouragement. Allies should urge New Delhi to relax its clampdown and Islamabad to stop backing jihadist proxies.
Military clashes persisted along Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir), while tensions escalated in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) amid local elections. India 1 Dec claimed Pakistani cross-LoC fire killed oneborder security force officer. Pakistani military said Indian fire 9, 15, 23 and 30 Dec killed total of four soldiers. Pakistani MFA 18 Dec said Indian cross-LoC damaged two UN vehicles; India denied responsibility, UN same day said they were investigating. New Delhipolice 7 Dec arrested five suspected terrorists for alleged involvement in Pakistani attempt to link Kashmiri militant outfits with Sikh separatists. Pakistan’s armed forces 9 Dec reportedly on high alert following intelligence reports of India allegedly preparing an attack across LoC; Pakistan’s FM 18 Dec said that India plans “surgical strike against Pakistan”. In Indian-administered Kashmir, security forces 9 Dec killed two militants in Pulwama district; 13 Dec killed two militants and captured another in Poonch district, alleging theyhad infiltrated from Pakistan’s side of LoC to disrupt ongoing local elections which began 28 Nov. Militant attack on security forces 12 Dec killed two civilians in Baramulla district; 14 Dec attacked home of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader and former Hizbul Mujahideen militant Haji Parvez in regional capital Srinagar, killing one. J&K police 30 Dec announced death of three “terrorists” after 20-hour “encounter” with army on outskirts of Srinagar; families immediately protested outside police office, alleging all three were actually civilians. Opposition alliance accused govt of crackdown during local elections, which concluded 19 Dec with opposition alliance winning 112 of 280 seats. Notably, authorities 9 Dec placed former chief minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti under house arrest for third time in two weeks; Mufti next day tweeted that armed forces were being used “to rig this election and favour a particular party”.In Anantnag district, police 10 Dec detained three journalists covering polls; militants 4 Dec also shot candidate. New Delhi 26 Dec arrested at least 75 Kashmiri political leaders and activists, placing them in “preventive detention” allegedly to pre-empt protests and violence.
Their recent dialogue process provides the best chance yet for bilateral peace and regional stability, but Pakistan and India must still overcome serious mistrust among hardliners in their security elites.
Even if India and Pakistan appear willing to allow more interaction across the Line of Control (LOC) that separates the parts of Kashmir they administer, any Kashmir-based dialogue will fail if they do not put its inhabitants first.
When the third round of the normalisation talks concludes in July 2006, India and Pakistan will be no closer than when they began the process in February 2004 to resolving differences, including over Kashmir.
The agreement between Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, and India's new prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to continue talks on all contentious issues including Kashmir has inspired optimism about reduced tensions in South Asia.
For half a century Kashmir has been the major issue of contention between India and Pakistan.