Kashmir - 2019
The Indian government on 06 August 2019 revoked Article 370 which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Rajya Sabha approved the resolution abrogating Article 370 and a bill to bifurcate the state into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, with Home Minister Amit Shah saying the controversial provisions were responsible for poverty and lack of development in the state.
The US has said it is “closely” observing the events in Jammu and Kashmir following the Indian government scrapping the constitutional provision that accorded special status to the state and urged all stakeholders to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Control (LoC). Without naming Pakistan, State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus on Monday told PTI, “We call on all parties to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Control.” Ortagus said “We are closely following the events in Jammu and Kashmir. We take note of India’s announcement revising the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir and India’s plan to split the state into two union territories”.
Parliament approved a resolution abrogating special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution and a bill for splitting the state into two Union Territories. The resolution was passed by Lok Sabha with 351 members voting in its support and 72 against it, while one member abstained. With this, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fulfilled one of its poll promises within 90 days of the PM Modi government 2.0 taking charge.
The National Security Committee while reviewing situation arising out of actions by the Indian government, situation inside Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and along LOC, decided to suspend bilateral trade relations with India. The meeting of committee was held with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair. The meeting decided to downgrading of diplomatic relations with India. It was further decided that Independence Day this 14 August to be observed in solidarity with brave Kashmiris and their just struggle for their right of self-determination while 15th August will be observed as Black Day.
Prime Minister Imran Khan says Pakistan will never accept the Indian efforts to annex the state of Kashmir. Giving a policy statement in the joint session of the parliament in Islamabad 07 August 2019, he expressed fear that India will now do ethnic cleansing of Kashmiris in order to change the demography of the occupied territory. Imran Khan said the current BJP government in India is a follower of RSS that believes in racist ideology against all the minorities in that country. He said the father of nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had recognized this much earlier and supported the two-nation theory to give the Muslims of India a separate homeland that is free from bigotry and racism.
The Prime Minister warned that if the two nuclear armed neighbors fail to resolve their issues, including Kashmir, an incident could drag them into a war which would not remain limited to conventional conflict. He said after winning election, he offered India that if it takes one step, Pakistan will respond with two. However, his hand of friendship was not reciprocated by its counterparts in India. [ Allah (swt) says: “Take one step towards me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me, I will run towards you.” [Hadith Qudsi]]
Delhi wants to amend the constitution and hollow out Article 370 and one of its key clauses 35A, which bar people from other parts of the country from buying property in the heavily militarised region that is also claimed by Pakistan.
Article 370 was enacted after Jammu and Kashmir's Hindu king agreed to accede to India in 1947. The special provisions had given Kashmir its own constitution, a flag and the right to frame its own laws. Kashmir's special status had protected the region from demographic changes by preventing outsiders from purchasing land and permanently settling in the Himalayan region.
The vast territory of Ladakh, also known as the cold desert, spread over 59,000sq km (23,000sq miles) and comprising two districts of Kargil and Leh, houses a tiny population of 274,289. Out of this, Muslims make up 127,296 (46.4 percent) and Buddhists 108,761 (39.65 percent). Ladakh, a wind-swept high-altitude desert region that borders China, will be under the federal government's direct administration with its own lieutenant governor.
The Muslim-majority region was broken up into two federal territories (Union territories), as part of a sweeping move to tighten its grip over the restive region that is at the heart of more than 70 years of hostility with Pakistan. The union territory of Jammu and Kashmir will have two divisions; Kashmir Valley and Jammu, an area of over 42,000 square kilometres (16,000 square miles) with a population of 12.26 million, which comprises 8.44 million (68.8 percent) Muslims. The new Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will have its own elected assembly with a five-year term, but most powers will be retained by New Delhi. The region no longer will have its own constitution or flag.
The reorganisation will significantly diluted the ability of Jammu and Kashmir representatives to govern their own affairs by making 106 federal laws applicable to the region, including the Indian Penal Code. The Jammu and Kashmir assembly will not be able to make laws on policing and public order, effectively ceding control of the entire security apparatus to New Delhi.
The state-enforced siege on the lives of the people of Kashmir began in the summer. It remained intact as the winter began. Separatist leaders were jailed and a security lockdown made public uprisings nearly impossible. Officially intended for the ‘protection’ of lives but actually designed to instill fear and submission, the siege choked not just the freedom of expression, communication and association but also the economy. No aspect of daily life remained unaffected. Some normalcy was restored in Kashmir Valley on 18 November 2019 with shops remaining open for the entire day. For the first time in 105 days, shops in the Valley remained opened in the afternoon hours as well. Till a day ago, traders were opening their shops from 7 to 11 in the morning and from 5 to 8 in the evening following threat from militants who had issued posters specifying these timings. J&K State Roadways Transport Corporation buses plying across districts of the Valley.
Kashmir's special status had protected the region from demographic changes by preventing outsiders from purchasing land and permanently settling in the Himalayan region. People in Buddhist-majority Leh district cheered New Delhi's decision to scrap Kashmir's special rights and bifurcate the region into two federally administered territories. In Leh, people are happy that their long demand to be separated from Indian-administered Kashmir was finally met, but there is a guarded fear the region might be overwhelmed with tourism and outsiders.
- A suicide attack on an Indian military convoy on 14 February 2019 left dozens dead in Indian-controlled Kashmir. According to police, all 44 people in one of the buses in the convoy were killed in the attack, with another person from another vehicle also being killed in the blast. The attack was claimed by the Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) soon after a Kashmiri rebel rammed an explosive-laden car into a bus carrying personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). The bombing ratcheted up already hostile tensions between the two South Asian neighbors, which each rule parts of Muslim-majority Kashmir while claiming the entire territory as theirs.
The day after cross-border air raids escalated tensions with nuclear-armed neighbour Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India will fight as one nation. Speaking on 28 February 2019 to his party workers across the nation in a video conference, he said the enemy wants to destabilise the country. "When the enemy tries to destabilise India, then one of their motives is to ensure that India's development is stalled.... We must show that the nation will not stop. Our soldiers are defending our borders. We must also work like soldiers and continue our work," local broadcaster India Today reported. "India will live as one; India will work as one; India will grow as one; India will fight as one," he added.
Members of Indian Prime Minister Modi's Bharitiya Janata Party called for more military action, suggesting the conflict still could worsen. Modi himself held a teleconference rally ahead of national elections, warning that "India's enemies are conspiring to create instability in the country through terror attacks."
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said his country wants peace and this should not be considered a weakness, adding that he had attempted to contact Indian Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday to call for deescalation.
Pakistan's airspace remained closed for a second day, snarling air traffic. The country's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it "has officially closed its airspace until further notice", while a Pakistani military spokesman said the decision had been taken "due to the environment." Schools in Pakistan-administered Kashmir also remained closed.
Fresh fighting erupted between Indian and Pakistani soldiers along the so-called Line of Control that divides disputed Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed rivals. India's army said Pakistani soldiers are targeting nearly two dozen Indian forward points with mortar and gunfire. Lt. Col. Devender Anand, an Indian army spokesman, said Pakistani troops attacked forward posts along the Line of Control calling it an "unprovoked" violation of the 2003 cease-fire accord.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised a "strong response" to a car bombing in Kashmir that killed at least 42 troops, with New Delhi calling for "the complete isolation of Pakistan" for harbouring the armed group behind the devastating attack. "We will give a befitting reply," Modi said in a speech on 15 February 2019, soon after he called his security advisers to consider a response to the worst attack on Indian security forces in decades. "Those who committed this heinous act will pay a heavy price. Those who supported it will definitely be punished," he was quoted as saying by the Indian Express newspaper. "If our neighbor thinks it can destabilise India, then it is making a big mistake."
It was the first ever use of Indian air power across the LoC since the 1971 war. A retired Air Vice Marshal of the IAF, Arjun Subramaniam, argued that these attacks marked a strategic milestone where Modi overcame decades of political hesitation and opted to use air power "as an effective tool of deterrence in sub-conventional operations." The IAF had been offering Indian civilian leaders the option of aerial bombing of terrorist launch pads inside Pakistan since the 1990s, but only Modi dared to activate it and thereby crossed a Rubicon.
Tensions escalated sharply following the pre-dawn air strike by India that New Delhi said targeted a terrorist training camp. On 26 February 2019, India carried out pre dawn air strikes in Pakistan on a Jaish-e-Mohammad camp, as a response to its suicide car bomb attack that had killed 40 paramilitary troops in Indian Kashmir nearly two weeks earlier. This marked the first time since 1971 that Indian jets had entered Pakistani airspace. The airstrikes, which India said killed many militants, escalated military tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals. Pakistan claimed the strikes caused no damage or casualites.
In a brief statement, Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale called it a “pre-emptive strike” prompted by credible intelligence that the Jaish-e-Mohammed was planning another suicide terror attack in the country. He said India struck the group’s biggest training facility located at Balakot in Pakistan. “In this operation a very large number of Jaish e Mohammed terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis, who were being trained for fidayeen action had been eliminated.” India had taken care to avoid civilian casualties according to Gokhale. “The facility is located in thick forest on a hilltop far away from any civilian presence.”
Gokhale announced that the Indian Air Force had struck a militant target in Balakot. “In an intelligence-led operation in the early hours of today, India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated,” read his statement.
Gokhale added: “…this non-military preemptive action was specifically targeted at the JeM camp. The selection of the target was also conditioned by our desire to avoid civilian casualties. The facility is located in thick forest on a hilltop far away from any civilian presence. As the strike has taken place only a short while ago, we are awaiting further details.”
The strikes were New Delhi's first on its neighbour's territory since the two countries went to war in 1971.
Pakistan said Indian warplanes dropped bombs near the town of Balakot, but there were no casualties. Pakistan officials said that Indian warplanes did breach its airspace and drop a "payload" over Balakot in the country's northeast, but said there was no damage or casualties.
Major General Asif Ghafoor, a spokesman for Pakistan’s military, disputed India’s version of the attack. He said that “Indian aircrafts intruded from Muzafarabad sector. Facing timely and effective response from Pakistan Air Force released payload in haste while escaping which fell near Balakot. No casualties or damage.”
"Now, it is time for India to wait for our response," Ghafoor said. "The response will come at the point and time of our choosing, wherever the civil and military leadership decides and has, as a matter of fact, decided. "It is your turn now to wait, and get ready for our surprise."
Witnesses and local journalists told Al Jazeera that the Indian munitions appeared to strike a mostly uninhabited forest near the mountain village of Jaba. "The payload was dropped near the forest in Batrasi, it is totally uninhabited," said Khalid Chaudhry, a local journalist. Two other journalists at the scene corroborated that version of events. The Reuters news agency quoted a local villager as saying he heard four loud bangs, but that damage was limited to trees and one house. Local residents told Al Jazeera the area was once home to a JeM training camp, but that it had been shut "years ago". They spoke on condition of anonymity, given the sensitivity of the subject.
The targeting of militant camps is a departure from India’s decades-old policy of restraint born out of fears of triggering an outright conflict. Analysts said this is the first air strike launched across the line of control in Kashmir since the two countries fought a war in 1971. Indian forces and air defenses have been put on high alert in anticipation of retaliatory action by Pakistan, which had vowed to respond to any military action by India. There also had been a large troop buildup in Indian Kashmir in recent days.
Indians took to the streets in celebration across the country to celebrate the contested strike. the strike could bolster patriotic sentiment against a backdrop of low farm incomes and weak jobs growth. The Indian media, predictably, went into jingoistic overdrive, with anchors and panellists declaring victory and the social media warriors acting like witches dancing maniacally around a cauldron brewing hate. India's opposition leaders, many of whom had banded together against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the election, congratulated the Indian Air Force (IAF), though they stopped short of praising Modi.
India said 27 February 2019 it lost a combat jet and the pilot was MIA while it foiled an attack by Pakistan military planes over the disputed region of Kashmir. Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said Indian planes engaged with Pakistan jets and brought one of them down. "In this engagement, we have unfortunately lost one MiG 21. The pilot is missing in action. Pakistan has claimed that he is in their custody. We are ascertaining the facts," Kumar told reporters. Pakistan denied losing any of its planes.
An Indian air force plane crashed in India-administered Kashmir according to an Indian official. Two pilots and at least one civilian were killed here, according to an Indian official. The official says the incident occurred after at least three Pakistan combat jets entered India-administered Kashmir airspace.
On 27 February 2019, Pakistan announced that it had shot down two Indian military jets which had violated its airspace, and captured two pilots whose plane had crashed on the Pakistani side of Kashmir. India counter-claimed that it had intercepted at least three Pakistani warplanes and forced them back, and later that it had shot down one Pakistan Air Force fighter aircraft; a claim denied by Pakistan. During the prior night, the Indian Army claimed to have destroyed five forward posts of Pakistan in a befitting retaliation to firing from across the border in Rajouri and Poonch districts of Jammu Division. As a result of the hostilities between the two countries, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced that Pakistani airspace was initially officially closed for commercial flights, although partially reopened later. In the meantime, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated his offer of talks with India.
The day after an Indian pilot was freed from Pakistani captivity, offering hope for de-escalation, on 02 March 2019 the two countries resumed shelling in Kashmir, killing a number of civilians on both sides. A 24-year-old woman and her two siblings were killed on Friday night near the Line of Control, a heavily militarized frontier that divides Pakistani and Indian parts of Kashmir. Another civilian was gravely injured in the shelling.
On the Pakistani side of the line, Indian artillery fire killed a boy and wounded three people, according to a government official. He told AP that the neighbor’s forces were “indiscriminately targeting border villagers,” and added that Pakistani troops were “befittingly” responding to the Indian artillery barrage. In total, at least five civilians and 2 soldiers were killed in the attack, Al Jazeera reported.
Pakistan reopened part of the country’s airspace amid further signs of de-escalation with rival India. The country’s civil aviation authority said on 01 March 2019 that all domestic and international flights will be allowed to and from the cities of Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar, and Quetta. It said other airports, including the one in Lahore that borders India, would remain closed until March 4.
Islamabad closed its air space on February 27 after saying that Pakistan's military shot down two Indian warplanes and captured a pilot. The pilot was handed back to India at a border crossing on March 1, a move Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has said was a gesture of peace.
Chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Gilani said 03 March 2019 the Indian government had declared a full-fledged war on the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Syed Ali Gilani in a statement in Srinagar said New Delhi was targeting Muslim majority population in Kashmir the way Israel was doing in Palestine.
On 10 July 2019 a United Nation report recommended the formation of a commission of inquiry by the Human Rights Council to conduct a comprehensive, independent, international investigation into human rights violations in Kashmir. The new 43-page report published by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva said that despite highest number of civilians killed near gunfight sites there was no information about any new investigation into excessive use of force leading to casualties. The report added that around 160 civilians were killed in 2018, which is believed to be the highest number in over a decade. The report said that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) remains a key obstacle to accountability.
On 02 August 2019, India deployed over 28,000 additional paramilitary troops in the territory to suppress the ongoing Kashmiris' struggle. These troops were sent to Kashmir less than a week after New Delhi moved 10,000 army soldiers to the territory. Official sources said over 280 companies of paramilitary forces are being deployed in the Kashmir valley.
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