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Kashmir International and Regional Relations

Brief Backdrop

Status of Jammu and Kashmir, after it was raised in the United Nations in 1947-48 is a subject of debate over the years. While India perceives as the issue settled post the Karachi Agreement of 1949, Pakistan continues to harp on Jammu and Kashmir being a dispute. J & K's defacto division between India and Pakistan with portions held by both the countries denotes the realities on the ground. In 2019, internally, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was divided into two union territories one by the same name and including the two entities and another Ladakh by a resolution of the Indian Parliament.

The international community raised concerns over repealing of special status of Jammu and Kashmir through revocation of Article 370 and 35 A by the Indian parliament, splitting of the State into two Union Territories and curbing of freedoms after August 05, 2019. Pakistan and China claimed this directly impacted the status of J & K and raised the issue bilaterally and in multilateral forums. Western democracies, particularly in Europe, had raised the issue of curbing freedoms, but these concerns have been largely assuaged two years after the event. Never the less apprehensions by China and Pakistan continue.

Recent Developments

The situation in Jammu and Kashmir has the most significant impact on India Pakistan relations.

While on the operational military front there is a degree of stability due to talks between the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMO) of India and Pakistan over hotline and a Joint Statement was issued on 25.02.2021, in which both agreed to strict observance of all agreements, understandings and ceasefire along the Line of Control and all other sectors with effect from the midnight of 24/25 February, the overall relationship with reference to Jammu and Kashmir remains contested.

An immediate outcome of the DGMO agreement has been that ceasefire violations have dropped to an all-time low from March to June this year. The record has been presented to the parliament has been six incidents as against hundreds during the preceding periods the corresponding period in the previous years.

The Ceasefire commitment has been welcomed internationally and regionally apart from within Jammu and Kashmir's Union Territory (UT). Stoppage of firing where artillery and mortars are also used provides much relief to the civilians living on the border who are unable to move about freely or tend to their fields in the forward areas. While bunkers have been constructed in some areas, there is a paucity. Bunkers save lives, but livelihood continues to be impacted as the people in the border areas primarily dependent on farming cannot tend to their crops due to fear of shelling.

The India Government's consistent position has been that India desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan and is committed to addressing issues bilaterally and peacefully in an atmosphere free of terror, hostility, and violence. The onus is on Pakistan to create such a conducive atmosphere by taking credible, verifiable and irreversible action to not allow any territory under its control to be used for cross-border terrorism against India in any manner as per the Ministry of Home Affairs response in the parliament in the

India and Pakistan continue to maintain regular communication channels through the respective High Commissions and other established mechanisms. This was stated by the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri Nityanand Rai in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha in the monsoon session 2021.

Pakistan, on the other hand, has maintained that reversal of repealing of Article 370 that was invoked by the Indian parliament on August 05, 2019, implying special status to Jammu and Kashmir will be the start point for negotiations. There are indications that the minimalist position will be to restore the status of the UT as a state and provision of rights and freedom to the people.

The opposing stand taken by India and Pakistan implies that scope for reconciliation in the larger context remains low. However, in the short term, it is anticipated that military hostilities will remain quelled.

This is also evident from the ritual of exchange of greetings and sweets that has been carried out customarily to mark the Independence Day of the two Sub Continental rivals on August 14/15 on the International Border (IB) and the Line of Control (LoC). The ritual was held at China post, Chamliyal BOP in Samba district and Octroi post in Jammu district at Poonch and Mendhar Crossing Points along LoC in district Poonch and at Tithwal crossing point in the Valley. Sweets were also exchanged on July 21 on the occasion of Eid. The rituals had been stopped after the Pulwama terror attack on February 14, 2019, in which over 40 CRPF personnel were killed but has been resumed in 2021.

India Pakistan relations are essentially held hostage to a terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir or the rest of the Indian hinterland. This has been the trigger for deterioration and there are concerns after reports have emerged that the Jaish e Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar E Taiyyaba (LeT) cadres which followed in the wake of the Taliban offensive in Afghanistan have been provided with large arms cache that was secured from the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF). In case these groups attempt to induct fresh cadres to trigger terrorism in J & K, a deterioration in relations is inevitable.

Another related factor that has emerged is the possibility of Pakistan ISI and Army relieved of having to secure the Western Front with Afghanistan diverting resources towards the Indian border and also focusing on triggering terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan propaganda on the Kashmir issue in international forums such as the United Nations and the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is another factor that has an impact in Jammu and Kashmir. In the most recent reference in response to the media queries on reference to Jammu and Kashmir made by the General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Official Spokesperson, Shri Arindam Bagchi said: "We categorically reject yet another unacceptable reference to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir issued by the General Secretariat of OIC. OIC has no locus standi in matters relating to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India. It is reiterated that the OIC General Secretariat should refrain from allowing vested interests to exploit its platform for comments on internal affairs of India."



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