Trouble in Kashmir: Regional Dispute Threatens Continental Security Order

An 11-year-old Pakistani girl was killed during an exchange of fire between Indian and Pakistani military troops in Kashmir on Sunday. Four others were injured in what the Pakistani military described as “unprovoked firing” from Indian troops in the border village of Rakhchikri. This is the latest development in the ongoing escalation in tensions between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

In August 2019, India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, unilaterally abrogated the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, which had regulated the Indian-administered Muslim-majority region. Consequently, the past year has witnessed a marked deterioration in

Indo-Pakistani relations, raising the possibility that the two nuclear states could wage what would be the fifth war since the establishment of India and Pakistan in 1947 created the unresolved, disputed region of Kashmir. ​ Tensions have come to a head over the past few weeks as the Indian military has adopted a more aggressive approach to governance, and violence has erupted across the region. Indian military forces have spent the past year routinely killing unarmed Kashmiri civilians, who have effectively been in lockdown since last August. India also continues to violate the civil liberties of Kashmiris. Reports show that many Kashmiris have been detained under house arrest, without trial, for over a year. The Indian military has also harassed and intimidated journalists reporting on the Kashmiri issue, earning India one of the worst rankings in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index. ​ Pakistan has suffered criticism by the international community because of Islamabad’s support for Islamist extremist groups operating in Kashmir. Earlier this summer, Pakistani militants from Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) murdered a member of Prime Minister Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a northwestern town in Kashmir. Last week, Indian military discovered weapons stockpiles at various terrorist hideouts in Kashmir, underscoring Pakistan’s role in providing finance, training, and materiel for the Islamist terrorist infrastructure in Kashmir. ​ Concomitant with the increasing frequency of episodic Indo-Pakistani conflict over Kashmir is a shift in alliances across South Asia and within the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). China is a key regional actor in the Kashmir conflict, playing a third-party role since 1963. China’s affinity for Pakistan originated when Islamabad granted Beijing sovereign control over the Trans-Karakoram Tract and Aksai Chi, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative has only reinforced Beijing’s commitment to positive relations with Pakistan. Meanwhile, intra-OIC competition explains Saudi Arabia’s move away from its historically close relationship with Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) shift towards India. Pakistan has more recently garnered support from Turkey and Malaysia, setting up potential rivalry for OIC leadership by a Turkey-Pakistan-Malaysia axis, challenging Saudi Arabia and the UAE. ​ The volatility and unpredictability of the Kashmir conflict is raising the very real possibility of a confrontation between the two South Asian nuclear powers of India and Pakistan with enormous repercussions for the overall security environment of the Asian continent.

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