CJ Werleman21 May 2020
A Kashmiri woman peeps as Indian policemen stand guard close to the site of a gun fight in Srinagar on 19 May 2020
CJ Werleman reports on developments in Kashmir and fears that India’s desires for ethnic cleansing in the area could result in dire consequences for the whole region.
India is upping the ante in Indian-Administered Kashmir (IAK), putting the lives of eight million residents in imminent danger and placing it and Pakistan on the brink of nuclear warfare, as both countries and the rest of the world battle the COVID-19 pandemic. The international community should read this as a five-alarm fire.
After a series of cross-border military engagements between India and Pakistan in late 2019, researchers estimated that a nuclear armed conflict between the two Asian states would result in the death of up to 125 million people – equating to twice the number of those killed during the Second World War.
“India and Pakistan are of special concern because of a long history of military clashes including serious recent ones, lack of progress in resolving territorial issues, densely populated urban areas, and ongoing rapid expansion of their respective nuclear arsenals,” according to paper published in the academic journal Science Advances.
The researchers calculated a number of scenarios in which nuclear war could break out, with one of those being New Delhi retaliating to a Pakistani-orchestrated or supported terrorist attack by sending in armoured tank columns into Pakistan-Administered Kashmir, leading Islamabad to believe that it is being over-run by a numerically superior Indian military, prompting an encounter with nuclear weapons.
It is a plausible scenario, but fails to reflect the current realities on the ground, which have seen India inviting confrontation by aggressively pursuing its Hindu nationalist agenda via a series of unlawful and reckless military and political moves.
Moreover, it is India, not Pakistan, that is using the COVID-19 outbreak as an opportunity to advance its aspirations in Kashmir. It is India that is deploying and locating artillery positions in Kashmiri villages, tens of kilometres away from bunkered positions along the Line of Control (LoC). It is India that is using distraction and diversion to change laws with the purpose of turning the disputed territory’s Muslim majority into a minority in their own land. And it is India that is once again using ‘fake encounters’ and exaggerating the threat of militancy to further impose its security forces upon the Kashmiri people.
On Tuesday, Indian soldiers set fire to 15 houses in the capital of Srinagar after killing two militants in a gun fight. A 12-year-old boy was killed after the building he was in collapsed as a result of the blaze.
To be clear, these fires didn’t occur accidentally or as a result of the gun fight. They were deliberately lit by Indian military as a form of collective punishment – or what is a central component of its occupation management strategy, one that seeks to change the demography of the territory by mirroring Israel’s settler colonial enterprise in the Palestinian territories, which have experienced a record number of home demolitions in recent years.
“15 homes torched by Indian Occupation forces in Srinagar yesterday as 900k security forces subject Kashmiris to brutal oppression,” tweeted Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday. “Modi’s Hindutva Supremacist Occupation Govt is committing war crimes in IOJK including changing the demography in violation of 4th Geneva Convention.”
In Kashmir, home demolitions have become routine in the aftermath of actual encounters with militants – and encounters that the Indian military stages or fakes – with more than 105 homes destroyed by the Indian military during alleged gun fights in the years spanning 2015 to 2017, according to data assessed by India Spend.
On Monday, Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Masood Khan described India’s recent military build-up and measures as indicative of a coming “false flag” operation that could threaten the region and beyond with unthinkable consequences.
“India alleges that Pakistan is sending militants and COVID-19 across the Line of Control and also that Pakistan is behind the revival of militancy in Kashmir,” Khan told Arab News. “These are all typical steps that they take before the false flag operation, so we have good sense that they are up to something. Any act of aggression will have dire consequences not just for Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan, but for the entire world,” he said.
Last month, videos emerged on social media showing Indian forces moving heavy artillery into the village of Panzgam in Kupwara district, using locals as human shields, before firing upon Pakistani military positions. The strikes and counter-strikes left three civilians dead, including a woman and child.
Adding to the woes of the Kashmiri people is New Delhi’s strategy to encourage “demographic flooding” by granting property ownership rights to Indian soldiers, Government officials and their families to close off all democratic avenues for Kashmiri Muslims to pursue self-determination and a future independent Kashmiri state, thus arguably provoking them into violent resistance.
A five-alarm fire is now ringing loudly. The international community must act to save the Kashmiri people from further suffering and the region from war.