Tensions between India and Pakistan continue to rise, with reports suggesting that New Delhi has ordered the construction of military bunkers in Kashmir.
According to a report in The Telegraph, India has constructed underground bunkers along the frontier with Pakistan. The move is worrying as it suggests the potential for a worsening of the conflict between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.
Indian forces building bunkers along disputed border
The Telegraph says that “a military checkpoint near Uri in India-controlled Kashmir revealed the country’s army has quietly but decisively bolstered its fortifications along the ‘Line of Control.'”
Later in the report Indian troops are cited as saying that “cross-border gunfire in northern Kashmir now occurs ‘every night.'”
The bunkers are described as “stone and cement walls” measuring six-by-10 feet tall. Construction work would have started around 7 days before India made its so-called surgical strikes on Pakistani territory.
India says that it killed militants that were planning terror attacks on its cities. However Pakistan says that the artillery shelling left two of its soldiers dead.
“India is doing this only to please their media and public,” Pakistan defense minister Khawaja Asif said.
Evacuations and aggressive rhetoric raise fears of war between India And Pakistan
Indian villagers who live near the border with Pakistan have been asked to evacuate. This has been interpreted as another sign that the conflict could escalate.
With aggressive rhetoric rising on both sides, it seems that the threat of war is real. Both sides hold over 100 nuclear warheads each, and Pakistan does not subscribe to a no first-strike doctrine.
“We haven’t kept the devices that we have just as showpieces,” Asif said in an interview. “But if our safety is threatened, we will annihilate them [India].”
Hawkish elements in India have been pushing for military action against Pakistan. “We need to cripple them, we need to bring them down on their knees,” said Arnab Goswami, a host of India’s most-watched English news hour, in reference to Pakistan, according to CNN.
Claim and counter-claim between diplomats
As the war drums grow ever louder, there is a danger that the rhetoric spills over into military action. This would threaten the future of a 2003 ceasefire that was agreed after 14 years of gunfights in Kashmir.
At that time India said that Pakistan had helped a militant insurgency that had killed around 35,000 people. To this day India maintains that Pakistan arms and funds militant groups that plan to attack India.
Pakistan has also leveled similar accusations at India. On October 5, Advisor to the Pakistan PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that India sponsored terrorists in Pakistan.
Aziz accused New Delhi of “sponsoring terrorist campaigns in Pakistan to foment separatist movements” and “ceasefire violations.”
“Mr. Aziz pointed out that India also maintained direct military pressure on Pakistan through deployment of advance weapons systems, offensive troops positioning and exercises along the border to refine the capacity of a surprise attack, as envisaged in its Cold Start Doctrine,” read a press release by the Pakistan Information Department.
Both Aziz and his Indian counterpart, Minister of State For External Affairs MJ Akbar, are in Brussels for a conference. However it does not seem that the pair will have a formal meeting.
Local residents worried by developments
According to Rudra Chadhuri, South Asia war studies expert at Kings College London, colonels on the ground had been handed responsibility for cross-border fire.
“The difference between this situation and peace time is, in peace time, you’d need some clearance from the top,” he said. “What’s happening now is, there is clearly an order to return each bullet with ten.”
Chadhuri went on to say that the bunkers were a logical step for Indian troops to take. “They don’t want to be caught unaware or by surprise, if there is an attack from the other side and they’re not able to defend key positions,” he said.
Local residents are worried about what might happen to them if war does break out.
“People will die here,” said 80-year-old Haji Abdulla Lone, chairman of Uri town’s market traders. “If war starts, the army will give us no shelter. We will have nothing to eat.”
Other locals said that international powers should take action to prevent escalation.
“India and Pakistan must talk. The West can do a big role. You can pressure both countries to solve the Kashmir issue,” said shopkeeper Khurshid Hando, 45. “Everything can be solved.”
In other areas the threat of war has inspired a more lighthearted response. Shezhad Ghias wrote a satirical piece for the Pakistani newspaper The Tribune in which he claims that Pakistan would win any eventual conflict with India.
“No Pakistani is afraid of war: Everyone is brave enough to put up a status online asking for war. As long as I do not have to fight in it, I support every war,” he wrote. This tongue in cheek response banks on the fact that war can be avoided, but it certainly looks as though Indian troops are preparing for any eventuality.