War, Is It?

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Almost three months and scores of international squabbling matches after, Delhi and Islamabad are inching toward a confrontation to satisfy their national egos. But Kashmir wonders why in the age of knowledge and wisdom, world should be telling the two nuclear neighbours that even after war they will have to talk, a Kashmir Life report

Hanfia school of Islamabad up in flames. (Photo: Aakash Hassan/KL)

Hanfia school of Islamabad up in flames. (Photo: Aakash Hassan/KL)

“But certainly 11,000 injured in two months and above 200 people became victims of pellet guns—it is almost like a mini-war,” PDP veteran, former Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Beign told a reporter last month. But the allied consequences of the nearly three-month old crisis could automatically upgrade the status of the crisis.

Right now, there are more than 6000 people in detention and arrests are now a 24×7 process across Kashmir. Srinagar’s Juvenile Home is taking its bit of the inward crowd as the police list of the “trouble makers” is getting longer.

Even the system of arresting the accused is distinct. Notwithstanding police denials, the residents in whose areas the “raiding” parties land allege that they first attack the common facility like the power transformers and make it unusable. With scores of transformers fired upon in their main bodies, various villagers have created sand-bagged shields around their transformers.

In the second step, they break the windowpanes of the locality and in third stage when houses are raided; they ensure that no electronic item – TV, radio, fridge, and washing machine, remains intact. Cars are a special target, almost everywhere. Additionally, they get into kitchens and mix rice stocks with sugar, chilly, salt and other spices, for a special effect, they even add soil or sand as additional ingredient. This system was massively in use at the peak of Jagmohan’s 1990 misrule and a special high-light of the ‘crackdowns’.

And more recently, there have been new additions, some of them unprecedented. “It was not my wildest imagination that I will be seeing the replication of scenes from the Hollywood flick Lion of the Desert in Kashmir in my lifetime,” a retired doctor, now operating from a private hospital said. “Italians would assemble Libyan food reserves and set it afire and now we saw paddy being set afire in the fields.” This is the same film on the liberation of Libya that led to sudden interruptions in Srinagar as it was screened in erstwhile Regal Cinema a few years before militancy, forcing authorities to order a halt.

The doctor said that closing the tunnel for 14 hours and forcing a 9 am- 4 pm schedule on the fruit mundi in Sopore are decisions that already indicate that the “government has announced war against the people, it claims it is representing.”

There has not been a let up in the use of the force that the government can muster. Apart from 130 new companies of paramilitary men, Delhi has rushed at least one division-strength of army to reinforce its defences in south Kashmir. More than 10,000 youth are being accommodated as special police officials (SPO) to help nearly 150-thousand police force (SPOs and VDCs included) to manage the crisis better.

The heaps of rice and grass were burnt down in Kanelwan area of Islamabad district on September 27, 2016. The locals alleged that men in uniform lobbed tear gas shells which fell in to paddy fields destroying the rice and grass. (KL Image)

The heaps of rice and grass were burnt down in Kanelwan area of Islamabad district on September 27, 2016.

Initially, this “war” was supposedly to be fought between Delhi and Islamabad. Apparently unwilling to “give-in” to the Kashmiri separatist demands and talk to Pakistan, Delhi took a stand that tensions were the outcome of Islamabad’s meddling in the valley. This argument aimed at negating the ingenious nature of the crisis adversely contributed to the situation in Kashmir. This triggered a serious diplomatic showdown between the nuclear-rivals so seriously that, after a long time, Kashmir found UN relevant to them. So many people within India’s strategic community were indicating that a few days war with Islamabad might be a way-out to silence Kashmir.

Amid this war euphoria, Delhi and Islamabad started a diplomatic war against each other. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) had laid the base of this “war” in July only when it had sought permission to visit Kashmir suo moto to investigate the human rights violations. Unlike Pakistan, Delhi rejected the idea. In response, Pakistan sent its lawmakers to a number of countries on Kashmir awareness campaigns and also sought help from the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

As the two countries sought allies to their stated position on Kashmir, it did help spread the word ‘Kashmir’ around. Eventually most of the countries were clear on one thing that the two countries will have to sit and solve the issue for peace in the region. On Kashmir situation, there were certain countries like Turkey and Italy which were clear that the abuse of human rights must be investigated.

A few days ahead of Pakistan premier Nawaz Sharief’s UN general assembly speech, a wee-hour Fidayeen attack on an army base in border Uri town killing 18 soldiers, literally pushed the region into a “war” that Delhi TV was so desperate to cover. Though Islamabad denied its involvement, it did not cool tempers in India. This was despite the fact that National Investigating Agency (NIA), investigating the case, raised more questions than answers. Now the agency is investigating two PaK residents who were arrested from a forward post in Gawalta village while infiltrating into Kashmir. Alleged border guides, they have reportedly accepted that they had helped the four militants to cross over.

This attack allegedly carried out by Jamiat ul Mujahideen is being considered to have hit many targets. For many days in Kashmir, there were not many major protests and it indicated as if situation was getting normal. It gave enough of encouragement to Delhi to think in terms of mounting a strike against Pakistan. With attention diverted from human rights to militancy, many diplomatic commentators believed it impacted the outcome of Nawaz Sharief’s UN September 21, speech in which he barely talked about anything excepting Kashmir.

The coercive diplomacy, however, did not help UNHRC to send its teams to Kashmir. However, it did impact the relationship of India and Pakistan with the various countries. India and Russia have been close friends for ages and Moscow still flew its soldiers to Gilgit for joint exercises with Pakistan army despite Delhi advising against it.

Delhi did discuss the war option – it still is on table, may be for mid-October. But given the diplomatic pressures, Delhi started exploring other options and one of the key ideas was to convert water into a weapon by undoing Indus Water Treaty, the 1960 water-sharing agreement that World Bank brokered with the help of US, UK, Canada, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. They contributed jointly contributed $1 billion and “virtually bribed” Pakistan by giving it $315 million to enter into negotiations with India. The treaty that survived two wars and a localized one over Kargil heights was discussed at various levels and it was eventually decided that preventing water from flown down is unnatural. Besides, India would require creating a lot of facilities to retain water.

It was Chinese unstated threat that accelerated the second thoughts. If India can rejected an international treaty to punish Pakistan by withholding the waters, Beijing indicated that it can do the same thing as it is not governed by any Treaty.

China is Pakistan’s partner in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that passes through Gilgit through Karakorum Highway and reaches deep Sindh at Gawadar where a port is ready. This is expected to be the new economic lifeline in the belt that will reduce costs of transit for Chinese goods to most of the world. The recent happening on this front is Iran’s keenness to join the project. Iran has borders with Pakistan.

The next idea that was considered and executed was that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not attend the SAARC summit in Islamabad in November. India’s diplomacy led Bhutan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan following it. While Bhutan and Afghanistan continues to be the major recipients of Indian aid in the region, Dhaka under Sheikh Hasina is Delhi’s ideological-ally throughout. With Maldives, Sri Lanka and Maldives not following Delhi, the SAARC story underwent and interesting downgrade. It was adversely commented throughout.

This pushed Delhi to take a very risky decision – to go for a “surgical strike”. Though ‘hot pursuit’ has remained on table in Delhi since L K Advani was the home minister, this is for the first time that Delhi availed the option to avenge Uri killings. Though border raids have remained a routine in J&K, but there were two instances which disappeared well before they were reported. One report was from Uri, within two days after the Uri attack. The second one was within a day ahead of the Poonch attack.

Prime Minister Modi had tried to calm the tempers in anticipation of these strikes. He flew to Kerala and told people that he is willingly accepting the challenge of “1000-years of war” but is keen to see it happening on the socio-economic front: in literacy rate, in reducing unemployment. Seemingly it has not helped ease the tensions and the euphoria that electronic medium had created in last more than two months.

Though the exact details of the “surgical strike” is not known, TV reports suggest that Indian army men crossed LoC in Poonch area some 2km inside, attacked seven launching pads and killed scores of militants. They said they have video evidences to prove that the raids were actually carried out successfully. This was in response to Islamabad’s claims that there was no such strike other than routine fire exchange in which two of their soldiers were killed.

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This situation is coinciding with Kashmir completing three months of self-injuring uprising that has already cost dearly to the valley, both in terms of lives lost, injured or maimed. The state government that has apparently given a lot of leg-room to the central government in taking the most crucial decisions is finding itself slightly stronger with the federal backing. Indications suggest that some of the political beings may be recalled to be part of the government as the government intends to make a fresh beginning from Jammu after the durbar move.

With nothing positive happening between Delhi-Srinagar or Delhi-Islamabad, a section of youth feeling choked, attacked cops and snatched rifles. While it indicates, appetite of arms and absolute lack of supply, observers in Srinagar feel these desperate youth may join militancy and help the government to sustain the status quo.

A nomad lady breaks down on the dead body of one of the horses killed by army casper in the intervening night of 24 and 25 Sep. (KL Image: Shah Hilal)

A nomad lady breaks down on the dead body of one of the horses killed by army casper in the intervening night of 24 and 25 Sep. (KL Image: Shah Hilal)

But the real question that is now being asked almost everywhere is: will there be war? The two sides are in a state of serious tension and there is a possibility of a mishap that could trigger a war which has the potential of getting nuclear. In war, Kashmir sees its case actually getting buried.

Non-BJP parties in India have been hard-selling negotiations with Pakistan and with Kashmir separatists as a way-out to come out of the serious impasse. There are political forces willing to go back to the time of accession and feel Islamabad may have no option but to accept it. But Modi is unwilling to talk because his party sees weakness in talks and is not ready to offer any room to the opposition to beat them either in UP or in Gujarat. For India’s domestic politics, Kashmir has to stay international.

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