UCA News

India

Tension escalates on India-Pakistan border

12 dead and 40,000 displaced as neighbors trade fire in disputed Kashmir region

Umar Manzoor Shah, Srinagar

Umar Manzoor Shah, Srinagar

Updated: January 23, 2018 05:47 AM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Tension escalates on India-Pakistan border

Indian soldiers in Kashmir's frontier district of Kupwara patrol the 740-kilometer Line of Control, a de facto border dividing the disputed region amid continuous skirmishes. (Photo by Umer Asif/ucanews.com)

Share this article :
More than 40,000 villagers have fled their homes since Indian and Pakistani soldiers began exchanging fire across their borders, raising concerns over the traumatized lives of common people in the violence-hit region.

At least 12 people including seven civilians have been killed in skirmishes since Jan. 18 across the Line of Control, a military demarcation agreed by both nations across Kashmir.

The exchange of fire become heavier on Jan. 19, forcing India's Jammu and Kashmir state to sound a red alert asking people in frontier areas to move out of their homes and take shelter in government safe houses. 

Local media reports said 40,000 people have fled border areas, bringing normal life to a grinding halt as they have abruptly left regular activities of schooling, farming and cattle rearing.

"Villages in the border area of Jammu province are dark and deserted. The area is being continuously shelled. The people fled to safety," the government advisory said.

Local leaders such as Bishop Ivan Pereira of Jammu–Srinagar Diocese have expressed concern over the mounting tension between the nuclear-powered South Asian rivals.

"The situation is worrisome as precious human lives are getting lost. We pray that such hostilities between both sides end soon," Bishop Pereira told ucanews.com.

The simmering tension increased after Pakistan started heavy shelling, according to India. However, Pakistani officials claim India fired first in a violation of a 2003 ceasefire agreement.

India often accuses Pakistan of supporting an insurgency in the Indian part of Kashmir, an allegation Pakistan has consistently denied.

India also accuses Pakistan of supporting "a freedom struggle" in Indian Kashmir against Indian administration. Some groups have also taken up arms in an effort to separate Kashmir from India.

The conflict dates back to 1947 when India and Pakistan become separate states after British rule ended. Both countries claim Kashmir in full and have fought at least three wars and countless skirmishes over it.

Calls to end violence and stress dialogue have come from leaders, including church officials. Past talks have failed to find a lasting solution and recent efforts have been a non-starter because of the pre-conditions of both nations.

"Dialogue is the best way to achieve results without shedding blood and without creating any animosity. We urge both countries to talk as violence is not a solution to any issue," Bishop Pereira said.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said the people of her state had suffered most because of the conflict.

"We want both countries to end hostilities. Incidents of shelling are proof that the people of the state are the worst victims of acrimony between the neighboring countries," Mufti said. 

Kashmir's separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani also appealed to both nations to demonstrate restraint and play a constructive role in achieving a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue. 

"War and inconsistencies are not options. Instead, they cause devastation and destruction. Both India and Pakistan are nuclear countries and any flare-up can prove detrimental," Geelani said in a statement. 

According to government data, 583 incidents of firing on borders were recorded in 2014, with 405 in 2015 and 449 in 2016 before leaping to 881 in the first 11 months of 2017.

From 2014 to November 2017, 55 civilians and 44 soldier have been killed on Kashmir's borders. 

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
 
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM

Publisher

Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."