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RE-EMERGING CONFLICT IN KASHMIR: THREAT OF A NUCLEAR WAR
Early stages of the conflict
Even beforehand the independence of Pakistan and India from Britain in 1947, Kashmir was contested. This region landlocked between India, Pakistan and China serves as a main source of water and power generation for both India and Pakistan, thanks to its abundance of glacial waters. Under the partition plan provided by the ‘Indian Independence Act’, Kashmir was free to join either India or Pakistan. The local Hindu ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, presided over majorly Muslim population. Despite his initial efforts to remain independent, he signed the Instrument of Accession to India in 1947. The same year, a two-year armed conflict between Indian and Pakistani forces over the region erupted. During the 1950s, China was gradually occupying eastern Kashmir, Aksai Chin. This lead to a conflict between India and China in 1962, which ended with India’s defeat.
Two more conflicts emerged between India and Pakistan, the second Indo-Pakistani war in 1965 and the Kargil conflict in 1999. By the end of the 20th century, both countries declared themselves to be nuclear powers. The pro-independence insurgency has its roots in 1987, causing the spread of violence against civilians by both sides. Numerous protests, violent attacks and casualties in the past decade prevailed over the unsuccessful diplomatic efforts to end seven decades of hostilities between the two countries.
Interests of the involved parties
Each side has its own fiercely held view. Pakistan seeks the implementation of the 1948 UN resolution which called for an independent plebiscite, with the belief that Kashmiri Muslims were wronged by the states accession to India and that, given choice, they will vote to join Pakistan. It has also sought to raise the Kashmir issue at various international forums, actively seeking third-party intervention. Following the increased hostility along the Line of Control, which divides two nuclear-armed neighbors in disputed Kashmir Valley, China voiced its willingness to play a ‘constructive role’ in improving relations between India and Pakistan. Nevertheless, India declined the proposition emphasizing its request to discuss the disputes with Pakistan with no third-party involved. India failed to appeal to the inhabitants of Kashmir and Jammu, due to high unemployment and heavy-handed tactics of its security forces, such as battling street protesters and fighting, even affecting the opinion of the pro-India National Conference which proclaimed Indian rule as an unavoidable reality rather the desirable outcome, as there are very few residents of the Kashmir Valley who would not embrace independence with relief and enthusiasm.
Measures in Place
Following the partition, Security Council adopted resolution 39, that included the establishment of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNICP) in order to investigate and mediate the dispute, ad resolution 47 to enlarge the membership of the Commission, including the provision of observers to stop the fighting. In July 1949, India and Pakistan signed the Karachi Agreement establishing a ceasefire line to be supervised by the military observers. These observes formed the nucleus of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), that observes and reports, as well as investigates complaints of ceasefire violations and submit its findings to the UN.
Recent turn of events
The most recent situation emerged on the 14th of February 2019 when Pakistani suicide bomber drove his explosive-laced vehicle into an Indian military convoy in Indian-administered Kashmir thus killing forty people in the process. Although the Pakistani government denied all allegations of their involvement in the attack, a Pakistani-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) accepted the accusation for the attack. Following this event, India will retaliate with an air-strike two weeks later. The Indian government claimed that strikes targeted a training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) group near Balakot in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The mentioned airstrikes are the first launched across the LoC (line of control) - the de facto border that divides Kashmir - since a war between the two countries in 1971. The Indian Air Force (IAF) put air defence systems on alert along the international border and Line of Control to respond to any possible retaliation by the Pakistan Air Force. The prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, convened an emergency meeting to review the situation. At the end of this meeting, the National Security Council (NSC) released a statement denying the Indian claims of the destruction of any terrorist camp and described the attack as "uncalled for" whilst adding that retaliation would be forthcoming after a joint parliamentary session.
The longest unresolved international conflict continues to pose a threat to peace and stability of the region, as Pakistan and India persist with strong, uncompromising stances on how this issue should be addressed, injecting hatred with nationalist ad military regimes, and turning the area of Kashmir and Jammu into a ticking time bomb stranded between two nuclear powers. The permanent ceasefire has been proven unsustainable and the steps towards stabilizing the region rest undone. The people of Kashmir and Jammu continue to live though their freedoms were taken away with the partition. It is not until the involved parties sit at a table to discuss future steps towards resolving this pressing matter, that any progress will be made. Will the line of control be turned into an International border, will there be a referendum for independence or a plebiscite to decide between India and Pakistan, or will the international community propose an innovative approach to this long-standing issue remains uncertain, but it is more than clear that unless radical measures are then, the situation in the region may escalate to a nuclear war of international concern.