Tensions continue to rise in the restive Kashmir region, with a real potential for conflict between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.
Pakistani officials have spoken out against the rhetoric being employed by India, and accused its neighbor of attempting to divert attention from accusations of serious human rights abuses in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Now Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif has underlined that the Pakistan Army is ready for a potential conflict, according to an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement.
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Pakistan prepared for potential conflict with India
General Raheel pointed out the “hostile narrative being propagated by India” and said that the Pakistani armed forces are “fully prepared to respond to the entire spectrum of direct and indirect threats.” He went on to praise the preparedness of the Army and said that the force was following developments in the Kashmir very closely.
The General presided over a press conference which provided a detailed review of the security situation both at home and abroad.
“Pakistan’s armed forces together with their resilient nation have surmounted every challenge and will thwart any sinister design against integrity and sovereignty of the country in future as well,” the COAS said.
The conference came shortly after Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh branded Pakistan a ‘terrorist state’ in an anti-Pakistan diatribe, a few hours after suspected militants attacked an army base in India-held Kashmir.
Rhetoric continues to heat up over Kashmir
Rajnath set an aggressive tone in his speech, which comes as India and Pakistan prepare to face off at a new session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Monday. Pakistan will use the session to “forcefully” draw attention to the situation in Indian-held Kashmir, while India will raise the Balochistan issue and propose international support for the struggle for Baloch independence from Pakistan.
India has spoken of its support for a demonstration by Baloch activists outside UN headquarters. Both Pakistan and India are attempting to garner support for their positions in the international community. However it seems as though the United States has decided to stay out of the argument and refuse to take sides.
The rhetoric from India has become steadily more aggressive in recent weeks. The situation has worsened due to the deaths of over 80 people in the last two months in Indian-held Kashmir, almost all of whom are anti-government protesters.
India has now blamed Pakistan for masterminding the latest attack on its military base, which killed 18 soldiers. The accusations sparked a strong reaction from Pakistan, which railed against the “vitriolic statements” from India, calling them a “blatant attempt” to distract the world from human rights abuses in Kashmir.
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Protests against Indian rule in Kashmir are continuing, and a curfew has been imposed while Indian officials contemplate an “appropriate response” to the militant attack.
Indian Home Minister Singh said that “there are definite and conclusive indications that the perpetrators of the Uri attack were highly trained, heavily armed and specially equipped.”
“I am deeply disappointed with Pakistan’s continued and direct support to terrorism and terrorist groups,” he said.
According to a statement from Pakistan, the situation in Kashmir is “not of Pakistan’s making but a direct consequence of illegal Indian occupation and a long history of atrocities.”
What comes next in Kashmir?
There have been many reports about the use of pellet guns by Indian security forces. Hundreds of people have been treated for serious eye injuries after the weapons were used to put down protests. India says that the weapons are non-lethal and can be used against demonstrators, but rights groups argue that they should be banned as they cause serious injury.
Officials also criticized India for blaming Pakistan without having conducting an investigation into the attack. However many Indians have called on their government to “strike back.”
According to an Indian army officer, the militants crossed the Line of Control from Pakistan and then attacked the base, which is found west of Srinagar. All four of the attackers were later killed by Indian security forces.
Demonstrators took to the streets in July following the killing of a popular militant leader. The Kashmir issue has been a consistent source of problems between India and Pakistan for over 60 years, and two wars have already been fought over the region.
A previous militant attack in December 2014 caused the deaths of 9 Indian troops. In June 2015 a troop convoy in Manipur was attacked, leading to the deaths of 20 soldiers.
The violence continues in Kashmir even as politicians meet at the UN, but it must be hoped that a solution can be found to the ongoing problems.