cover image

Illustration by Mahgul Farooqui

The Tragedy of Kashmir

Both India and Pakistan like to blame each other, but the reality is that both are responsible for the situation.

Feb 16, 2019

On Thursday, a suicide bomber affiliated with Pakistan-based terrorist organization Jaish-e-Mohammad [killed 46 paramilitary police in the Pulawama region of Indian-administered Kashmir] ( In what is an already volatile region, the attack has led to heightened tensions between India and Pakistan.
The Indian government has alleged that it has [“incontrovertible evidence”] ( of Pakistan’s involvement in the attack, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi going as far to say that Pakistan will pay a [“heavy price”] ( for the attacks. Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, has denied any involvement.
The last time such an attack occurred, in the town of Uri, India responded by launching so-called [“surgical strikes”] ( across the border on Pakistani military targets and terrorist camps – Pakistan denies that [the strikes ever took place] (
Those strikes may have set an unfortunate precedent for how the Indian government is going to respond. The attack also occurs at an unfortunate time, only three months before an Indian general election where Modi’s government may use this incident to inflame nationalist sentiments. How the nation responds is anybody’s guess.
To understand the current events in Kashmir, one needs to understand how we got here. Both India and Pakistan like to blame each other, but the reality is that both are responsible for the situation.
When it comes to Kashmir, there is a disproportionate focus on the historical territorial dispute which has existed since the independence of both nations. India and Pakistan have fought four wars since independence, three of which can be directly linked to Kashmir.
Thus, it may be tempting to look at the territorial dispute as an overly complex issue with no clear solution. However, that is not the case. An obvious solution has been apparent for decades: formalizing the “Line of Control” that currently exists between the two countries in Kashmir. In [1964] (, [1972] (, [1993] (, [1999] (, 2001 and 2008, the two countries came agonizingly close to finalizing such a deal – only for it all to fall apart due to an unpredictable events – such as the death of the Indian Prime Minister in 1964.
Over the last decade however, the two countries have not even attempted negotiations. In fact, India has ruled out Kashmir as a topic of discussion in any talks between the two nations. This is because the border dispute in Kashmir has been replaced by a far more sinister crisis, one that may be more difficult to solve.
Since 1988, Indian-administered Kashmir, especially the Kashmir valley, has seen an [insurgency against New Delhi’s rule] ( India has consistently blamed [Pakistani-supported terrorists for creating tension in the Valley] (, while Pakistan has said that the violence is a legitimate expression of Kashmiri interests. For once, both sides may have a point.
The Indian argument is strong. Pakistan’s history of sheltering international terrorists has been well-documented. One of the world’s most wanted terrorists: Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind behind the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, continues to enjoy [a free rein] ( in Pakistan – even making political speeches. Similarly, Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar [continues to live freely in Pakistan] (
Even more problematic is that the Pakistani security apparatus has been entangled with terrorist organizations for decades. The best example of this is Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) which has long been accused by Western officials of [backing terrorists in the region] (
Indeed, international observers have long concluded that in 1989, the ISI moved extremist militants from the War in Afghanistan to the Kashmir region in order to [start the insurgency there] ( Similarly, the Pakistani military, which plays an outsized role in the country’s politics, has often played a murky role in helping ferment tension in the region by [providing supplies to militants] ( in order to infiltrate Indian territory. Moreover, Islamabad has ruled Pakistan-administered Kashmir with an iron fist, [often committing atrocities against ordinary Kashmiris] (
While Pakistan can be blamed for instigating the insurgency, the reason that the crisis has been so persistent is because of India’s oppression in Kashmir. After all, New Delhi has a long history of [rigging elections] ( in the region to suit its outcomes.
Even when elections are not rigged, constitutional provisions have been used to deprive the Kashmiri people of their preferred outcome. For example, the state has been [ruled] ( by “President’s rule” – rule by the central government – for nine months, despite a [clear coalition majority in the state assembly] (
More importantly, the Indian military and police forces have consistently clamped down on dissent in a brutal manner, especially since Modi took office in 2014. Protestors are often shot with pellet guns, [resulting in eye injuries for thousands – including children] ( Moreover, there is a [long history] ( of Indian military officers committing sexual violence, torture and extra-judicial killings in the region.
The border crisis in Kashmir may have an obvious solution. But what can’t be solved is the pain of victims; victims of terror, victims of sexual violence, victims of torture, indeed victims of India and Pakistan.
The 46 paramilitary police killed in Pulawama are just the latest victims. Until the two sides end their cruel policies in Kashmir, there will be many more.
Editor's note: this article was updated on February 20th 2019 at the author's request
Abhyudaya Tyagi is Opinion Editors. Email him at
gazelle logo