Following recent tensions between India and Pakistan, forthright opinions were expressed on both sides, by nationals and across the diaspora. But as Neha Maqsood writes, one thing was forgotten: the status of Kashmir.
“It seems that these two nations, India and Pakistan, cannot seem to give the other up. And they’ll always be connected over a place called, Kashmir.”
I’m thousands of miles away from my home country, Pakistan, where the environment has been nothing short of tense recently. I’ve kept my Google alerts on for every update of the recent India-Pakistan tensions. These two nations have sparred on-off following the 1947 Partition of the subcontinent, butting heads three times: in 1965, 1971 and in 1999. Given the current atmosphere, Pakistan and India were again seen to be at the brink of war.
Threats of war began on February 14th, when a 20-year old suicide bomber of a militant group based in Pakistan, Jaish-e-Muhammad, claimed the lives of 40 Indian soldiers in Pulwama, Indian-occupied-Kashmir. The Pakistani government, after being accused by India of mobilizing the attack, rebuffed these allegations.
On Tuesday 26th February, Indian fighter planes flew across Pakistani territory to provoke the Pakistani Air Forces. Its key to note, that Indian Prime-Minister Narendra Modi is up for re-election and perhaps used this action to garner support from the Indian masses to delineate that his government is able to defend the people and won’t stand for such actions. Modi’s government went ahead and falsely claimed that the fighter planes successfully attacked a terrorist training site in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. However, the Pakistani military dismissed the claim. The only infrastructure that was even damaged were a couple of trees. (May they rest in power)
The following day, the Indian Air Force crossed the Line of Control, when Pakistani Air Forces shot down two planes and captured one of the pilots, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. A popular video began circulating on Twitter and YouTube of Abhinandan himself, partially injured, holding a cup of tea and seeming relaxed. He spoke of how well the Pakistani military had treated him but refused to reveal information on the reason of his mission. Of course, the Indian media proceeded to contact YouTube to remove the video and claimed that the pilot had ‘disappeared’. Overall, it was a humiliating experience for India, but Wing Commander Abhinandan was returned to Indian soil relatively unharmed.
“It was an eye-opening experience of how disappointing world leaders, public figures and the general population can be. The Twitterati, where Indian celebrities, who were probably residing in their million-dollar homes, expressed their overly jingoistic opinions”
After much deliberation and words of caution by the West, Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan decided to release Abhinandan as a ‘good-will gesture’ and a means to put an end to the chaos. A smart move by the recently elected PM who could clearly foresee that the notion of two nuclear armed countries engaging in war will reap disastrous consequences on the future development and population of the two nations. Fatima Bhutto, in her New York Times article commented on how a report written by an anti-nuclear organisation estimated that 1-2 billion deaths could arise from a war between two states that have an arsenal of nuclear weapons.
As a result of the tense climate, the all commercial flights in Pakistan and Indian-occupied Kashmir were closed. According to Dawn News Pakistan, the airports were shut down for military purposes until commercial flights could be re-opened.
For people miles away from the battlefield, the internet is where their opinions were made explicitly clear and for me, it was an eye-opening experience of how disappointing world leaders, public figures and the general population can be. The Twitterati, where Indian celebrities, who were probably residing in their million-dollar homes, expressed their overly jingoistic opinions. Ajay Devgan tweeted, “mess with the best, die like the rest”. Points for the rhyme but honestly, did you expect anything else from this man?
What was most shocking was UNICEF ambassador and Bollywood actress, Priyanka Chopra’s statement whose pro-stance on Twitter (Jai Hind), has resulted in a petition signed by thousands to remove her as a UNICEF ambassador. However, there have been more moderate voices amongst the war-mongering and overly-patriotic histrionics with the majority of Pakistani sentiment leaning towards peace and resolution.
It seems that these two nations, India and Pakistan, cannot seem to give the other up. And they’ll always be connected over a place called Kashmir.
Security guards at the Line of Control at Kashmir
What Modis’ India and Khan’s Pakistan have overlooked is this magnificent valley between the Himalayan and Pir Panjal range. Kashmiris living along the Line of Control (LoC) are the most vulnerable and possess bunkers and safety houses to protect against the shelling, living each day with the possibility of war and imminent death. The cross-fire between the Indian and Pakistani army ultimately affects the citizens of Kashmir who are injured or killed by bullets.
Kashmir used to be a major tourism spot. Unfortunately, terrorist attacks and amplification by the media has propagated the notion of Pakistan, and by extension, Kashmir, that these places are dangerous. Hence, development has been low, the economy has suffered and the overall morale is poor. The immediate effect is not the only concern; children are orphaned, and generations produced suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and are more likely to be financially impaired, according to a report done by PRISM, Dawn. Parents fear to send their children to schools alone and prefer to keep (girls especially) at home, thereby hampering the growth and development of children and eventually, their prospects in the employment market.
“Perhaps, events would have been vastly different if in 1947 Cyril Radcliffe, the Viscount responsible for designating and dividing land between India and Pakistan, had declared appropriate boundaries before fleeing”
I’m sure the Kashmiris never asked for this situation. I’m sure they don’t want to be an orphaned state. I definitely do not want to reduce Kashmir’s residents to a statistic because they are more than that. As the tensions among Pakistan and India are de-escalating and airports are starting to function again with people carrying on with their normal lives, do we forget the Kashmiris and the irreparable damage done to them? Do their stories even come into the limelight?
Perhaps, events would have been vastly different if in 1947 Cyril Radcliffe, the Viscount responsible for designating and dividing land between India and Pakistan, had declared appropriate boundaries before fleeing, leaving the subcontinent in a situation to deal with their own mess that was not even created by them, and causing the deaths of more than a million people.
But wishful thinking is not the way forward. Furthermore, every matter will always be politicised, but accepting and understanding that peaceful solutions should be the medium used to tackle these skirmishes or counter-attacks. Millions more lives may depend on it.