Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The World's Most Dangerous Border-Kashmir

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The World's Most Dangerous Border-Kashmir

Article excerpt

Reports of fighting along Kashmir's cease-fire line don't normally receive much attention in the Western media. The new year, for example, saw a series of clashes on Jan. 8 and 10 that killed both Pakistani and Indian troops.

One of the Indian soldiers was decapitated, provoking fury across India and calls from its extremist Shiv Sena Hindu party for a nuclear attack on Pakistan.

Gunfire is common on the 1947 cease-fire line known as the Line of Control (LOC) that divided the beautiful mountain kingdom of Kashmir into Indian- and Pakistani-controlled portions. Fighting in that tense region always has the potential to quickly escalate into a major war-or even nuclear conflict.

Having been under fire numerous times on the LOC, I used the experience in my first book, War at the Top of the World, to illustrate just how dangerous the simmering Kashmir dispute remains-a dispute that went from bad to critical after India and then Pakistan acquired and deployed nuclear weapons. This, I wrote, was the most dangerous strategic threat facing the globe.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars and some very large battles over Kashmir. Both claim the entire mountain state. Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, has waged a long covert campaign to insert guerrillas into Indian Kashmir to aid a series of spontaneous rebellions against Indian rule by the state's Muslim majority.

This writer has joined mujahideen fighting their way across the lethal LOC, which is defended by Israeli-constructed fences, electronic sensors, minefields and Israeli-supplied drones. Losses run very high among those trying to cross the line.

Muslim Kashmiris have been in almost constant revolt against Indian rule since 1947, when the British divided India. Today, 500,000 Indian troops and paramilitary police garrison rebellious Kashmir. Some 40,000 to 50,000 Kashmiris are believed to have died over the past decade in uprising.

India blames the violence in Kashmir on "cross-border terrorism" engineered by Pakistani intelligence. Human rights groups accuse Indian forces of executions, torture and reprisals against civilians. Large numbers of Hindus and Sikhs have fled strife-torn Kashmir after attacks by Muslim Kashmiri guerrillas. It's a very bloody, dirty war.

The Kashmir conflict poses multiple dangers. First is the very likely chance that local skirmishing can quickly surge into major fighting involving air power and heavy artillery. …

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