The Kashmir Conflict Part 3
Armistice and terrorist attacks
After all, peace activists have occurred. In November 2000, India declared a unilateral ceasefire during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The ceasefire was then extended three times. It was considered the most serious peace invitation from India in eleven years. According to consistent information, the shooting around the control line largely stopped during this period.
But the guerrillas did not interrupt their attacks. Most militant groups dismissed the ceasefire as “Indian propaganda.” It was not long before as many people had been killed as in the first months of the ceasefire. Many civilians took to the streets in protest against the ceasefire but also against the Indian government.
The terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, kept the militant Muslims in Kashmir low for a while but soon resumed their struggle. India, which backed the US-led fight against terrorism, said it should also apply to terrorism in Kashmir and demanded that Pakistan take up the fight against the guerrillas. But Pakistani President Musharraf did not dare, could or did not want to intervene. Relations between India and Pakistan reached a bottom on Lucia Day in 2001, when militant Islamists attacked the Indian Parliament in New Delhi, killing 12 people.
This time, Musharraf decided to intervene. In a speech in January 2002, he declared that “no organizations will be able to carry out terrorist acts with Kashmir as a pretext”. He also said that the fight in Kashmir would henceforth be conducted only by political means. Many radical Islamists were imprisoned and Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, whom India considered to be behind the parliamentary attack, were banned. However, they have continued to operate but sometimes under other names.
Dialogue with Islamists
In the spring of 2003, India’s Prime Minister AB Vajpayee, then 79, suddenly declared that he wanted to see improved relations with Pakistan during his lifetime. In October, his Hindu nationalist government proposed a series of confidence-building measures, such as re-establishing air, rail and bus routes between the countries and organizing joint sporting events.
Musharraf responded positively to the invitation, but his situation was more uncertain than Vajpayees’. Pakistan’s Islamist minority did not want to “sell” Kashmir to India. Pro-Islamists are also found in the Pakistani army and in the military security service ISI. In a short time, Musharraf had been subjected to two assassination attempts, probably carried out by Islamist groups. Perhaps it was the assassinations that made Musharraf promise once and for all to take action against the militant Islamists.
According to agooddir, India now offered to start talks on Kashmir’s future with the separatists, but rejected all demands that Pakistan participate in these talks. The militant groups within the UJC did not want to participate if Pakistan was excluded. The invitation to peace talks split Hurriyat; half of the members sided with the militant groups, half were positive about the talks.
But India did not want to discuss independence for Kashmir or accession to Pakistan – just some form of increased autonomy within India. In addition, Vajpayee never managed to complete what he started, as his BJP party was voted out of power in 2004.
The terrorist attack in Mumbai
India’s new government, led by the more left-wing Congress party, continued dialogue with Pakistan. Following a summit between the new Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Musharraf in New Delhi in 2004, the confidence-building measures were gradually implemented. The two leaders declared the peace process “irreversible”, despite the fact that they were fundamentally far apart in the Kashmir conflict. They also stated that they did not intend to allow the peace process to be stopped by possible guerrilla attacks.
The level of violence in Kashmir fell, while a number of guerrilla leaders were killed or captured. However, widespread attacks on representatives of Indian authorities such as the police and military in Jammu and Kashmir were frequent. A series of large-scale bombings also targeted civilians inside India. Lashkar-e-Taiba was suspected of bombings in Mumbai in 2004, in Delhi in 2005, in Varanasi in 2006 and again in Mumbai in 2006 – all with many civilian casualties and with the aim of interrupting the peace talks. The group is also believed to have been behind the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, which led to the peace process in practice standing still for several years even though talks were held.
After a troubled spring and summer in 2010, when street riots claimed hundreds of lives, a calmer time began in Indian Kashmir. Small steps were taken in the peace process, for example, it became easier to travel or trade across the control line.
But in 2013, the conflict escalated again. Dozens of deaths were claimed in a series of clashes between police and protesters, and several attacks on police stations were carried out by unknown perpetrators. The unrest worsened the conditions for peace talks. When Prime Minister Singh met his new Pakistani counterpart Nawar Sharif in September, the only step forward was to end the meeting at all.
The conditions for peaceful development in Kashmir were hardly improved by the Hindu nationalist party BJP’s and the controversial party leader Narendra Modi’s landslide victory in the Indian elections in the spring of 2014. When Modi visited Kashmir as the new prime minister in the summer of that year, he accused Pakistan of “waging war through ombudsman ”against India. Modi then referred to the Kashmiri separatists that India accuses Pakistan of supporting. Pakistan reacted strongly to Modi’s move, and scheduled talks between the two states were canceled the same month.
In 2016, violence escalated along the control line, while the attacks by separatists in the Kashmir Valley continued. Earlier this year, a coalition of militants attacked an Indian air base in Pathankot near the Pakistani border, killing at least 11 people. At India’s request, Pakistan arrested members of Jaish-e-Mohammad for the act.
From the summer, the situation deteriorated markedly since security police in July 2016 killed the young radical Islamist Burhani Wani, a commander in the Hizbul Mujahedin. Violent street protests were met by police tear gas. One month later, some 70 civilians had been killed and thousands injured in the clashes.
When 19 Indian soldiers were killed in an attack on an army headquarters in Uri outside Srinagar in September, the Indian government blamed the act on Pakistan-based militant groups and demanded that Pakistan be “isolated as a terrorist state”. India bombed rebel strongholds in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and escalated fighting at the control line.
In November 2016, diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan reached a new low when the countries accused officials at the embassies in New Delhi and Islamabad, respectively, of espionage. The conflict followed the tense situation in Kashmir.
After nearly a year of escalating violence, in May 2017, the Indian military launched the largest offensive against rebels in Jammu and Kashmir in several years. It was met by new deadly attacks from the resistance groups. During the autumn, there were reports that a jihadist group, with the aim of making Kashmir an Islamist-controlled area, had broken out of the Hezbollah Mujahedin.