Recent flare-up of violations of the Line of Control (LoC) by Indian troops has resulted in great hardship for the people living on both sides of the divide. According to Al-Jazeera TV, the number of violations in 2017 reached more than staggering 1,300, killing at least 52 and injuring 175 civilians. Very recent statistics indicate that the first three weeks of 2018 have witnessed a continuous spree of violations of the LoC and Working Boundary (WB) by the Indian army and Indian Border Force (BSF). During these violations, in addition to small arms, heavy weapons were used to kill dozens and to injure hundreds of innocent civilians straddling the LoC and WB, violating the UN resolutions and Ceasefire Agreement-2003 and all international norms of engagement not to target the civilian population.
The recent history of violations reveals the details of the astounding figure of 1,881 ceasefire violations from 2014 to 2016 — 315 in 2014, 248 in 2015, 2016 in 2016, respectively. These violations entailed 300 deaths, 1,121 injuries during the period. It is interesting to compare it to the figures of 1,062 violations of ceasefire violations from the period 2003 to 2013 – 11 in 2003, six in 2004, nine in 2006, 18 in 2007, 30 in 2008, 46 in 2009, 113 in 2010, 104 in 2011, 282 in 2012, 464 in 2013 — showing a gradual upward trend during the years starting from 2003.
The increase in such violations is glaring since the assumption of governmental control by the ultra-conservative Modi government. The augmented ceasefire violations coincide with an increasing trend in the persecution of religious minorities, particularly Muslims. The intransigence of the part of India is not limited to the Line of Control only; it extends to the Working Boundary as well.
The pattern of events threatens a probably violent conflagration between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. The situation is fraught with risks for an already fragile and uneasy peace prevailing between the two countries. It is the need of the hour that sense should prevail and efforts be directed to avert any dire eventuality.
The history of these violations dates back to the Indian invasion of Kashmir on October 27, 1947, which gave rise to the first India-Pakistan war that continued till January 1, 1949, when United Nations intervened to effect a ceasefire between the two countries. Later developments resulted in bilateral agreements between the two countries like the Karachi Agreement-1949, establishing a ceasefire in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The ceasefire was to be backed and supervised by the UN through the Truce Subcommittee of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) which was established by UNSC Resolution 47, passed on April 21, 1948, and further to resolve the Kashmir conflict through mediation. This resolution was an extension of, and improvement upon, an earlier Resolution 39 adopted on January 20, 1948, setting up a commission of three members. UNSC Resolution 47 undertook to enhance the number of members to five. The Commission was directed to visit India and Pakistan to restore peace in the region and to prepare for the plebiscite in Kashmir. The Commission continued to function till March 1951, when the UNSC, through Resolution 91(1951), formed the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to supervise the Ceasefire Line (CFL) now renamed as the Line of Control (LoC).
Since the signing of the Simla Accord of 1972, India has stopped UNMOGIP from visiting the LoC, misinterpreting the Simla Accord through misleading proclamations, thereby confusing the world community that Kashmir has become a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, to be resolved bilaterally. The fact is that Kashmir is not a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan as, in addition to the Kashmiris, the stakeholders are also China, which controls 9,000 square miles of the area, and the UN which has played a historical role by adopting a number of resolutions. Taking a holistic view of the issue, the Indian mantra of bilateralism in the Kashmir dispute does not seem to hold much water, nor is the LoC a permanent border.
India attempts to draw multiple benefits out of the massive violations of the LoC. On the one hand, it is diverting the world attention from massive violations of human rights being perpetrated in India-Occupied Kashmir (IOK); on the other, it aims to label Pakistan as the state sponsor of terrorism in IOK, in addition to obstructing the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). As far as the Indian allegations of Pakistan as the state sponsor of terrorism in IOK are concerned, there does not seem to be much substance as the LoC is heavily fenced with no probability of unilateral crossing from Pakistan. The height of Indian callousness can be gauged from a recent incident in which Indian security forces have gone to the extent of targeting a school van killing several children near the LoC thereby flouting all international norms of engagement. India thinks that the threatening posture can arm-twist Pakistan into accepting its hegemonic designs.
Kashmir is not just a territorial dispute between two neighbours, it has been turned into the epicentre of a humanitarian crisis, in which over six hundred thousand Indian troops have turned Kashmir valley into a virtual jail for the Kashmiris. People there are sporadically denied access to electronic and social media to put across their plight to the outside world. Arbitrary detentions and staged encounters in which freedom loving activists are being put to death is the order of the day. Forced disappearances and denial of access to international organisations to investigate human rights violations are among the state policy tools in a bid to curb the legitimate political aspirations of the people of Kashmir. A state policy of persecution of the people of Kashmir for over seventy years since the occupation of Kashmir by India has failed to distance Kashmiris from the aspirations of their inalienable right to self-determination in a fair, equitable and transparent manner.
The situation along the LoC is fraught with diabolical consequences for both world and regional peace as any misadventure may likely lead to a deadly clash between the two nuclear-armed neighbours in South-East Asia. The recent hint of surgical strikes from the Indian side can wreak havoc with the already fragile security situation along the LoC. Any such misadventure from either side has the potential of turning into a nuclear trade-off between the two countries. The need of the hour is to talk and act with sanity so that a catastrophic eventuality may be averted. In a scenario such as this, the responsibility of the international community and the UN increases manifold, as they need to act decisively and proactively to avert a nuclear apocalypse in South Asia before it is too late.