Tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir (among many other issues) have escalated significantly in the past few weeks. But, the past few days have seen fighting break out that’s lead to deaths on both sides and the two countries coming dangerously close to starting what could potentially be another war.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence from the British in 1947, and two of them have been over Kashmir. Kashmir, for those who don’t know, is a heavily disputed region controlled mainly by India and Pakistan with a small portion being administered over by China. And ever since the British left both India and Pakistan have laid claim to the entirety of the territory.
The situation has not improved since 1947, the violence has merely peaked in 1965, 1971, 1999 and what looks to be 2019. And the situations only been exacerbated by Mujahedeen’s who’ve travelled to the region to ‘liberate’ the parts of Kashmir controlled by India, especially after the end of the Soviet-Afghan war.
Also, the rise of Kashmiri nationalism has led to the formation of groups like the JKLF (Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front) who’ve continued to gain popularity in the region and become a larger threat each year. Furthermore, Pakistan’s decision to arm and train indigenous and foreign militants in Kashmir has merely added fuel to the fire.
The situation the two countries currently find themselves in began mid-February when militants carried out a suicide bombing against an Indian paramilitary convoy that killed 46 people, the deadliest in Kashmir’s history.
India’s PM Narendra Modi responded by threatening those responsible with a “crushing response”, a threat he soon followed through on. India launched an air strike in Pakistani controlled territory against what it claimed was a training camp for the militant group claiming responsibility for the attack, Jaish-e-Mohammed.
India claimed to have killed the mastermind behind the attacks as well as 300 other militants, but Pakistan strongly denied these claims stating that there were no casualties. Pakistan’s chief military spokesperson, Major General Asif Ghafoor, even tweeted photos of what he said were the actual locations of where India’s bombs hit, killing nobody and hitting no infrastructure.
Pakistan then retaliated by shooting down two Indian fighter jets and capturing a pilot. In videos uploaded online, the pilot can be seen being beaten by local villagers whilst a member of Pakistan’s military attempts to shield him. The pilot, whose names been revealed as Abhinandan Varthaman, has become somewhat of a face for the conflict the countries currently find themselves in. Other videos showed him blindfolded, drinking tea and even complementing the officers who are looking after him.
But, after spending several days detained by Pakistan, the pilot was released on Friday in what’s been called a peace gesture by Pakistani PM Imran Khan. However, it clearly didn’t have the sort of effect either side was probably hoping for.
Fighting resumed that same night, breaking down the ceasefire, with both sides accusing the other of firing artillery shells over the border and attacking military posts. At least six civilians have been killed and two Pakistani soldiers thus far.
The threat of a nuclear war is something most consider unlikely. It’s a possibility, but as per the MAD theory (Mutually Assured Destruction) as well as international condemnation and most likely military action by far more powerful countries its doubtful it’ll ever come to that, fortunately.
It’s also doubtful war will erupt, and the most likely scenario is one wherein both countries continue with the back and forth style attacks they’ve already been engaging in.
With the Indian elections coming up, Modi is certainly under pressure to seem strong, resilient and action-inclined to ensure he gets re-elected. Khan is also in a precarious situation as this is the first real crisis of his term and he’ll have to prove his worth to those who’ve voted him into power.
Both sides are in situations in which they must be seen to not be backing down in the face of threats or attacks, which is certainly dangerous and has led to conflicts in the past.
But, with the world watching and a variety of influential countries attempting to act as mediators there is a significant amount of hope that a lasting ceasefire could be implemented that prevents unnecessary death.