Conflict between India and Pakistan has continued to rise over the last week as soldiers from both nations trade fire over the Kashmir international border. The violence has so far claimed 11 Pakistani lives and eight Indian and has forced thousands more to flee their village homes in search of safety.
Since hostilities broke out a week ago, small-arms fire and shelling has continued along the 200 kilometer stretch of border with Pakistani rangers targeting nearly 150 Indian villages with mortar fire. Indian forces continue to retaliate, with both sides trading fire throughout Wednesday night. According to an Indian official up to 25,000 people are now living in relief camps established by the coordinated efforts of the state government and the military.
Since the dismantling of the British-Indian Empire in 1947 and the creation of Pakistan, the Jammu and Kashmir region has remained in dispute. After a bloody war that ended at the beginning of 1949, violence broke out again in 1965 when the Pakistani military launched a covert offensive into Indian-occupied territory. Relations between the two sides continued to deteriorate over the next several decades as both nations took actions against the other and also struggled with domestic issues.
This latest surge of conflict between the two nations is one of the worst in years since a ceasefire was enacted in 2003. Though both countries often accuse the other of violating the fragile peace conduct, casualties are rare.
Verifying the real aggressor between India and Pakistan continues to be almost impossible and, as each seeks to condemn the other, Government officials from both nations are openly criticizing their counterparts. Indian Defence Minister Arun Jaitley accused his neighbour of unprovoked firing and shelling and declared that if the violence was allowed to continue his country’s forces would make it unaffordable for Pakistan. Jaitley also stated that the unprovoked aggression was an attempt to deliberately precipitate tension between the two nations and to provide cover for militants to sneak over the border into Indian occupied territory.
In response, Pakistani Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said that his nation did not want conflict, but also declared that his forces would respond to any escalation of Indian aggression over the international border. Touching on his concern for the increased violence between two nuclear-capable countries, Asif expressed his wish that India would “demonstrate caution” and behave responsibly.
Officials from both sides have also made public statements at the United Nations. However, while Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made a plea to the international community to help reach a resolution to this decades-long conflict, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi remained resolute in his belief that border disputes in the Kashmir region are a matter to be settled between the two nations without exterior influence. During his first speech to the U.N. Modi has also stated that he is open to peace talks with his neighbour but only if it acted to create an “appropriate atmosphere.”
While the conflict over the international border continues to escalate, relations between India and Pakistan continue to decline. The rise in violence comes only months after newly instated Modi extended an invitation to his inauguration to his counterpart Sharif. But since then India has cancelled talks between the two nations as recently as August, after accusing Pakistan of interfering with its international affairs.
By Mathew Channer