India-Pakistan Tensions Renew Over Kashmir

14 May 2008
The Christian Science Monitor

Islamabad: India has accused Pakistan of firing across the militarized frontier that divides the disputed region of Kashmir the first such allegation since the neighbors and rivals signed a cease-fire agreement in 2003. Violations across the so-called Line of Control have been rare since that truce was signed as part of peacemaking efforts between the nuclear-armed nations. The LoC was recognized after a 1971 war and it has since become the de facto border separating India's part of Kashmir from Pakistan's part. But on Sunday, eight people were shot dead when the Indian Army attacked militants they claim were trying to sneak into Kashmir. And on Tuesday evening, India claimed that the Pakistani Army had fired bullets across the LoC, according to Reuters. Pakistan had vehemently denied the claims. The incident took place in the Tangdhar region, about 105 miles north of Srinagar, Indian Kashmir's main city. Since 1989, numerous militant groups have been fighting for Kashmir's separation from India or its merger with Pakistan. Both claim all of Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state. Pakistan regards the demands of the Kashmiri people as legitimate but denies abetting the insurgency. The two Kashmir border-crossing allegations follow a string of bombings in Jaipur, and some officials said terrorists had hoped to undermine India and Pakistan's peace process with those bombings, reports The Christian Science Monitor. On Wednesday, commanders from both armies held a meeting to discuss the alleged violation, reported NDTV, a leading Indian television new channel. NDTV said India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, had described the development as 'worrisome.' Bloomberg reported that the issue of infiltration across the Kashmiri border would feature prominently in talks between India and Pakistan. 'Infiltration itself is a problem,' [India's state-run broadcaster] Doordarshan cited Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon as saying yesterday. 'We will deal with it on the ground and also bilaterally with Pakistan. We will raise it with them. The absence of violence and stopping cross-border terrorism is a very high priority.' India's foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled to visit Pakistan next week and discuss, on May 21, the four-year-old peace process. Though this process has improved relations between the two countries, India and Pakistan have made little progress over Kashmir. Earlier this month, Pakistan's prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, said that the only viable settlement of the Kashmir issue was one that addressed the needs and aspirations of the Kashmiri people. Some Indian newspapers were quick to criticize Pakistan over reports its army had fired over the LoC. Pakistan, of course, promptly denied it, reported The Times of India. Pakistan army chief general Pervez Kayani, incidentally, had reaffirmed his force's 'commitment to the cause of Kashmir' while visiting troops in forward areas along the LoC recently. Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salahuddin, on his part, vowed to continue the holy war against India, while deriding the Indo-Pak peace process. Calcutta's The Telegraph reported that up to 80 shots had been fired from a 10,000-plus foot high post manned by a unit of the Pakistan Army, and sought to explain why this gave cause for concern in India. The reason for the worry in Delhi is also compounded by the covering fire that Pakistani troops allegedly gave to militants who infiltrated through the International Border in the Samba sector of Jammu last week. The infiltration was through a cordon manned by the Border Security Force and in a stretch of the border that Pakistan refers to as a 'working boundary'. With two incidents of ceasefire violations, military top brass here wonder if this could mean the unraveling of the ceasefire. This apprehension has been conveyed to the political leadership. There was less coverage of the alleged violation across the LoC in Pakistan's newspapers. But Dawn, a leading newspaper, reported that India and Pakistan would have plenty to talk about on May 21, from the bombs that exploded in the Indian city of Jaipur on Tuesday to Sunday's 'alleged infiltration attempt.' Writing in an editorial in India's leading Mint newspaper, diplomatic affairs editor Jyoti Malhotra urged both sides to keep on talking. Can the elected governments of India and Pakistan do a better job of promising to fight terrorism when they meet on 21 May? It would be in the interests of both the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) as well as the Congress to prove a point to their respective security establishments. Both parties must recognise that when security establishments win, it is the people who lose. If the Congress (in India) and the PPP (in Pakistan) actually agree to share intelligence and jointly deal with terrorism, a huge task by all accounts, they would also be paying a debt to history.