India Fears Taliban Fallout In Kashmir

Security personnel stand guard along a street in Srinagar on October 15, 2021, following the killing of two army personnel in an encounter with suspected militants in Poonch district, local media reported. TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP

 

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi set out his Taliban worries to world leaders this week, Indian forces staged raids and battled Kashmir militants who he fears could be emboldened by the Islamists’ victory in Afghanistan.

Kashmir rebel shootings of civilians and police, raids by the security forces on militant hideouts, and insurgent infiltrations across the India-Pakistan ceasefire line have all increased in the Muslim-majority region since the Taliban overran Kabul on August 15.

About 40 people have been killed in shootings and clashes in the two months since then in the Himalayan region, which has been divided since India and Pakistan became independent in 1947.

Militants have targeted minority Hindu and Sikh civilians, while gun battles near the ceasefire line have also left soldiers and rebels dead.

India has not openly blamed the Taliban takeover for the uptick in violence, but it has intensified patrols near Pakistani Kashmir and fortified some army camps, according to residents and security officials who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

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Modi told a G20 summit in Rome earlier this week that international efforts were needed to make sure Afghanistan does not become a safe haven for “radicalisation and terrorism”.

He has also raised India’s concerns with US President Joe Biden.

In September, he told the UN General Assembly that no country must be allowed to use Afghanistan “as a tool for its own selfish interests” — a comment widely seen as a reference to neighbouring Pakistan, the chief backer of the Taliban’s 1996-2001 regime.

This time, Islamabad has stopped short of recognising the new Taliban government.

Still, New Delhi accuses its arch-rival in Islamabad of fuelling Pakistan-based militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, which are blamed for many attacks in Kashmir.

Pakistan denies the claim.

Weapons And Fighters

India was a backer of the Soviet-puppet government in Kabul that was overthrown by mujahideen forces in 1992.

In 2001 it helped the US-led forces that toppled the Taliban. And it was a major donor to the government that the hardline Islamists crushed in August.

Afghan militants fought alongside Kashmir fighters in the 1980s and 1990s. About 20 Afghan “guest mujahideen” were killed and 10 were captured, according to a former Kashmiri fighter.

India worries that weapons and fighters could again reach the region, over which it has fought two wars against Pakistan.

“What we can say and learn from the past is that when the previous Taliban regime was in power, that time definitely we had foreign terrorists of Afghan origin in Jammu and Kashmir,” said India’s military chief of staff General M.M. Naravane.

“So there are reasons to believe that the same thing might happen once again.”

‘Oxygen To Our Movement’

Protests are virtually impossible in Kashmir because of restrictions imposed by Delhi since the region’s semi-autonomous status was revoked in 2019.

But some in Kashmir have quietly welcomed the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan as a victory against the odds that they too can aspire to one day.

“If they can defeat the world’s largest military power, we see a possibility that we too can win our freedom,” one businessman in the main Kashmir city of Srinagar told AFP, declining to be named.

A former Kashmir militant who trained in Afghanistan in the 1990s and fought alongside Afghan mujahideen in Kashmir added: “The Taliban victory has already supplied oxygen to our movement.”

Given India’s security clampdown on Kashmir, Naravane and other military chiefs are confident that Delhi can cope with any surge.

But speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior security official in Kashmir said “there is some panic” inside the security establishment.

Michael Kugelman, a South Asia specialist at the Wilson Centre in Washington, said Afghanistan’s new rulers could inspire “stepped up unrest” in Kashmir.

Taliban officials have said they want to maintain trade and other ties with India, meaning that some kind of contact will have to be maintained.

“The Taliban itself won’t agitate for unrest in Kashmir, but those it is aligned with likely will do so,” he said.

Mosharraf Zaidi, a columnist and security analyst in Pakistan, said he saw no reason the Taliban would want to “deliberately agitate the Indian authorities”.

Their victory, he believes, is more important for the signal it sends to “young Kashmiri boys and girls watching the images from Afghanistan”.

AFP

Pakistan PM Khan Slams ‘Oppressor’ India On Kashmir Anniversary

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the legislative assembly in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on August 5, 2020, to mark the one-year anniversary after New Delhi imposed direct rule on Indian-administered Kashmir. – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on August 5 branded India an “oppressor and aggressor” a year after New Delhi imposed direct rule on Indian-administered Kashmir. (Photo by – / AFP)

 

 

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan branded India an “oppressor and aggressor” on Wednesday, a year after New Delhi imposed direct rule on Indian-administered Kashmir.

Solidarity marches were held in all major Pakistani cities to mark the anniversary of New Delhi stripping Muslim-majority Indian Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status, a move that outraged Islamabad.

Kashmir, a disputed Himalayan territory, has been split since 1947 between India and Pakistan, both of which claim it in full and have fought wars over it.

“India stands exposed before the world, yet again, as an oppressor and aggressor,” Khan said in a statement.

“Its so-called secular and democratic credentials stand fully discredited,” he added, calling India’s action last year a “crime against humanity”.

Khan led a march through Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, before addressing the region’s legislative assembly.

Across the city, more than 2,000 people turned out at a series of anti-India protests.

“We ask the world to give Kashmiris their right of self-determination, otherwise we will cross the Line of Control and help our brothers on the other side with arms,”, Arslan Ahmad, a refugee who fled Indian-administered Kashmir, told AFP.

“Half of my family is under siege in Indian-occupied Kashmir, my mother is dying to meet her sister, this dispute has left our generations torn apart,” 31-year old Usman Mir added.

Police were enforcing tight restrictions in Indian-administered Kashmir on Wednesday, where religious and political groups had called on residents to observe a “black day”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government had promised the move would bring peace and prosperity to Indian Kashmir after three decades of violence sparked by an anti-India uprising.

Pakistan, however, has alleged it is a violation of the rights of Kashmiri people.

Khan accused India of trying to turn Kashmir’s Muslim majority into a minority by ending restrictions on outsiders buying up property “in blatant violation of… UN Security Council Resolutions and international laws”.

The change in rules has sparked fears that the Modi government is pursuing an Israel-style “settler” project.

A referendum in Kashmir mandated by a UN resolution in 1948 has never taken place.

“India has learned from Israel how to change the demography (of Kashmir),” President Arif Alvi told a rally in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, which observed a one-minute silence.

Hundreds of billboards and banners displayed graphic images purportedly of human rights violations by Indian authorities in Kashmir.

On Tuesday, Pakistan released a new official map showing all of Kashmir as its territory.

The Pakistan military, meanwhile, said Indian troops had fired a shell across the de-facto border, killing a young woman and wounding six other people.

Such exchanges are common along the Kashmir demarcation line, with shells blasted in both directions.

Pakistan has repeatedly likened Modi to Adolf Hitler and called for international intervention.

6-Year-Old Boy Dies In Indian Kashmir Crossfire

A woman with her child walks past Indian army soldiers near a mosque at the site of a gunbattle at Meej Pampore area of Pulwama district, south of Srinagar on June 19, 2020. - Indian forces have killed eight militants in restive Kashmir, including two who hid in a mosque, officials said on June 19, as New Delhi escalates counter-insurgency efforts in the disputed territory. (Photo by Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP)
A woman with her child walks past Indian army soldiers near a mosque at the site of a gunbattle at Meej Pampore area of Pulwama district, south of Srinagar on June 19, 2020. – Indian forces have killed eight militants in restive Kashmir, including two who hid in a mosque, officials said on June 19, as New Delhi escalates counter-insurgency efforts in the disputed territory. (Photo by Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP)

 

 

A six-year-old boy caught in crossfire was among five people killed in Indian Kashmir on Friday, officials said, as security forces step up a clampdown in the disputed Himalayan region.

New Delhi has bolstered counter-insurgency efforts in the restive territory, with at least 33 separatist militants killed this month.

The child was in a car that drove into a gun battle between suspected rebels and paramilitaries near the town of Bijbehara, a police officer told AFP.

“The boy and a soldier were injured during the exchange of fire and both later died in hospital,” said the officer, who asked not to be named.

Three rebels were killed in a separate firefight at Chewa, near the region’s main city Srinagar, in a battle that lasted 20 hours, army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.

Armed clashes are frequent in Indian Kashmir but have increased in recent weeks.

Kashmir is claimed by both India and Pakistan and has been divided between the two nuclear-armed rivals since 1947.

Rebel groups have fought for decades for Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan.

An insurgency launched three decades ago has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

India has 500,000 soldiers stationed in its section of Kashmir and accuses Pakistan of arming militant groups there.

Tensions have mounted again in Kashmir since August last year when India revoked the region’s semi-autonomous status, detained local political leaders and imposed a months-long internet and mobile phone blackout.

 

 

-AFP

Villager Fakes Death To Avoid COVID-19 Lockdown In India

People keep their bags inside marked areas on a street as they wait to receive free rice distributed at a government store during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Hyderabad on April 1, 2020. NOAH SEELAM / AFP.

 

A Kashmiri villager faked his death and travelled more than a hundred miles in an ambulance with four others in a desperate bid to circumvent India’s virus lockdown and return home, police said Wednesday.

Hakim Din was being treated for a minor head injury at a hospital in Jammu when an ambulance driver suggested the 70-year-old fake his death to get past checkpoints, police said.

Din and three other men wanted to return to Poonch, a far-flung region in Indian-administered Kashmir close to the de facto border with Pakistan.

The region’s Superintendent of Police, Ramesh Angral, said the four men and the driver travelled more than 160 kilometres (100 miles) in the ambulance, passing many checkpoints using a fake death certificate from the hospital.

“The ambulance was stopped at the last checkpoint before they could reach home,” Angral told AFP.

“A policeman there immediately figured out that the man lying covered inside the ambulance could not be dead.”

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The men were arrested and quarantined separately, Angral said, adding that they faced charges of “cheating and defying the government’s prohibitory orders”.

There are no known coronavirus cases in the Poonch region.

India imposed a 21-day nationwide lockdown from last Wednesday to fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are more than 1,600 cases, including 38 deaths, in the vast nation of 1.3 billion people, according to the government.

The nationwide lockdown comes in the wake of a long-running curfew in Kashmir, imposed as New Delhi scrapped the restive region’s semi-autonomous status on August 5.

Some aspects of the curfew were gradually eased in the following months, allowing Kashmiris to travel outside their homes and villages.

But some Kashmiris have been left stranded in cities and unable to return home to their villages after the sudden nationwide lockdown announcement.

Internet access, which was cut in the earlier lockdown, has remained severely restricted with only 2G access.

Many mobile phone users have also been unable to access the internet on their devices.

AFP

India Ends Five-Month Blackout, Restores Internet In Kashmir

Indian flag

 

Indian authorities on Saturday restored internet in Indian Kashmir after a five-and-a half-month blackout but maintained a block on social media sites.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government imposed a communications blackout in early August when it stripped the portion of Kashmir it controls — the country’s only Muslim-majority region — of its partial autonomy.

India also imposed a curfew, sent in tens of thousands of extra troops and detained dozens of Kashmiri political leaders and others, many of whom remain in detention, drawing criticism abroad.

Internet access was restored Saturday but only to 301 government-approved websites that include international news publications and platforms such as Netflix and Amazon.

Mobile phone data access was also restored, although it was limited to slower second-generation (2G) connections.

“It’s good some internet access has been restored but it’s so slow I’m hardly able to access anything and social media is also off-limits,” Raashid Ahmad, a university student, told AFP.

Azhar Hussain, a local businessman, also complained about the internet speed being “painfully slow”.

India is the world leader in cutting internet services, activists say, and access was also temporarily suspended in other parts of the country during recent protests against a new citizenship law.

Since August freedom of movement in heavily-militarized Kashmir has been gradually restored as has cellphone coverage, but apart from at a handful of locations, there has been no regular internet access.

This made life even harder for the region’s seven million inhabitants and hit the local economy hard.

Modi’s government said that the blackout was for security reasons, aimed at restricting the ability of armed militants — who it says are backed by arch-rival Pakistan — to communicate.

However, the Supreme Court criticised the government earlier this month for the move, calling it an “arbitrary exercise of power”.

The court also stated that having access to the internet “is integral to an individual’s right to freedom of speech and expression”.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since independence in 1947, and has been the spark of two wars and numerous flare-ups between the two nuclear-armed foes.

A bloody insurgency against Indian rule that has raged in the scenic Himalayan region for decades has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians.

Two Indian Soldiers Killed In Kashmir Gunfight

 

 

Two Indian soldiers were killed Wednesday in a gunfight with suspected militants along the border that divides the disputed territory of Kashmir between archrivals India and Pakistan, officials said.

The two were killed during an operation to intercept Pakistani infiltrators who were attempting to cross the heavily-militarised border into India, the Press Trust of India news agency reported officials as saying.

The operation was still in progress, army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Devender Anand said in a statement.

An armed rebellion against Indian rule has raged for decades in Kashmir, and has left tens of thousands dead, mainly civilians.

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New Delhi accuses Pakistan of arming and training anti-India rebels and sending them across the border to launch attacks on Indian forces.

Islamabad denies the charge, saying it only provides diplomatic support to Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.

Indian-administered Kashmir has been tense since New Delhi revoked the region’s semi-autonomous status in August and imposed a security and communications lockdown.

Some of the restrictions have since been eased, including SMS services which were restored on Tuesday.

Five local politicians were released from detention last Thursday although several other prominent leaders remain in custody.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. The archrivals have fought two of their three wars over the territory.

One Killed, 17 Others Injured As Grenade Hits Kashmir

Soldiers evacuate an injured comrade after a grenade blast at a market in Srinagar on November 4, 2019. . At least one person was killed and 17 injured on November 4 in a grenade blast at a crowded market in Indian-administered Kashmir's main city of Srinagar, police and doctors said. Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP
Soldiers evacuate an injured comrade after a grenade blast at a market in Srinagar on November 4, 2019. . At least one person was killed and 17 injured on November 4 in a grenade blast at a crowded market in Indian-administered Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar, police and doctors said. Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP

 

At least one person was killed and 17 wounded Monday in a grenade blast at a crowded market in Indian-administered Kashmir’s main city Srinagar, police and doctors said.

Kashmir has been on a knife-edge since August 5 when the Indian government moved to strip the region of its autonomy, imposed a lockdown, cut telecommunications and detained thousands.

No one claimed Monday’s blast but authorities have in the past accused militants backed by Pakistan of intimidating people into resisting Indian attempts to return life to normal.

Doctors at the main hospital told AFP that the deceased was a resident of northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

“Two people are critical,” a doctor said on condition of anonymity.

Srinagar police chief Haseeb Mughal told AFP that 18 people were injured out of whom one died at the hospital.

Kashmir is divided between India and its arch-foe Pakistan, and both claim it in full.

Militants seeking independence or a merger with Pakistan have waged an armed rebellion against New Delhi since 1989.

Around half of mobile phones remain cut off, as does the internet, while hundreds of local political leaders are still in detention, mostly without charge.

Markets, schools and public areas remain closed with government forces still patrolling the streets, with periodic security lockdowns imposed on many parts of the region.

A dozen non-locals have been killed by suspected militants, including six migrant workers last week, that police said were aimed at driving them away and create fear.

Gunmen Kill Five Migrant Workers In Kashmir As EU Lawmakers Visit

Indian flag

 

Unidentified gunmen shot dead five migrant labourers in Indian-administered Kashmir on Tuesday, police said, in the bloodiest incident since New Delhi moved to strip the region of its autonomy.

The killings in southern Kulgam district, some 70 kilometres (43 miles) south of the main city Srinagar, came as India allowed a group of mostly far-right European Union parliamentarians to visit the region where tensions have soared since New Delhi began a clampdown on August 5.

A police official told AFP an unknown number of gunmen, believed to be rebels, barged into an accommodation rented by the six labourers late Tuesday and shot one of them dead on the spot.

They later took five others out of the residence and shot them with automatic rifles some distance from the building, killing four and wounding one.

“He is critical and undergoing treatment at a hospital,” a local police official said of the wounded labourer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another top police official said the victims were from the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, and that additional government forces were rushed to the area to track the attackers.

No group has taken responsibility for the attack, but police in the past have accused militants of targeting non-locals in a campaign allegedly aimed at driving them from the region.

A non-local truck driver was shot dead on Monday by gunmen while he was ferrying apples in the Himalayan valley’s southern region.

Five truck drivers and businessmen from other Indian states, who were associated with valley’s vital apple trade, have been killed in recent weeks.

New Delhi in August controversially stripped the disputed region of its decades-old semi-autonomous status, which barred non-residents from buying land and taking government jobs.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, with most residents demanding either independence or a merger with Pakistan.

The region has been in armed rebellion for the past 30 years, with New Delhi accusing Pakistan of training and arming scores of militant groups active in the area.

Before stripping its autonomy, India sent tens of thousands of additional troops to join a 500,000-strong force in the region and imposed a weeks-long security and communication lockdown.

Authorities also ordered thousands of tourists and Hindu pilgrims to leave and arranged flights to take them elsewhere.

But tens of thousands of labourers who migrate to Kashmir every summer were left on their own.

Many departed due to the curfew, but others stayed, planning to leave as usual at the start of winter.

In the weeks since, landline telephone service and half of the region’s eight million cellphone lines have been restored, but internet remains cut off.

New Delhi, which has barred opposition politicians and a United States senator from visiting the valley since the clampdown, agreed to let nearly 30 EU lawmakers visit Kashmir.

Authorities have claimed that things have gradually returned to normal, but many residents, supported by militants, refuse to go to work, crippling the region that’s home to more than seven million people.

AFP

10 Killed In Fresh Firing Across Kashmir Border

People gather during funeral prayer for victims of cross border shelling in Nosari sector in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on October 20, 2019.  SAJJAD QAYYUM / AFP

 

At least ten people were killed Sunday in firing along the de facto India-Pakistan border in Kashmir, officials said, as both countries accused each other of trying to destabilise the disputed region.

Tensions escalated between the nuclear-armed neighbours after India revoked Kashmir’s autonomy on August 5 and imposed movement and communications restrictions to quell unrest.

Officials from the two countries accused each other’s militaries of firing across the so-called Line of Control.

India’s army chief General Bipin Rawat told reporters in New Delhi infiltration across the border has occurred repeatedly since August 5.

Two soldiers and a civilian were killed and three others injured in “unprovoked fire by Pakistan” in the mountainous Kupwara district, a spokesman for the army told AFP earlier Sunday.

Several homes were damaged in the attack and three civilians were being treated in a hospital, he added.

Rawat said his troops used larger-round artillery fire to hit “terrorist camps” across the border.

But Islamabad accused the Indian army of targeting civilians, with the foreign affairs ministry saying six were killed, while several others — including women and children — were seriously hurt in areas near the Line of Control.

The military added that one soldier also died, taking the toll in Pakistan-administered Kashmir to seven.

The shelling came ahead of two key Indian state polls on Monday, where nearly 100 million people can cast their votes in northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is aiming to win a second term in the states, and one of the BJP’s main campaign platforms has been the stripping of Muslim-majority Kashmir’s autonomy.

There has been a jump in deaths in recent days with five people killed in Indian Kashmir on Wednesday, two days after New Delhi restored mobile phone and text services.

Indian authorities said repeatedly during the lockdown that Kashmir has been mostly peaceful.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since 1947 and was the spark of two wars and numerous skirmishes.

An armed rebellion against Indian rule has raged in the valley since 1989, claiming tens of thousands of lives, mostly civilians.

AFP

Five Killed In Kashmir As Violence Spikes

Indian flag

 

Two non-Kashmiris were shot dead by suspected militants and three alleged rebels were killed by security forces, police said Wednesday, the deadliest day in the Indian-administered Kashmir valley since New Delhi revoked its autonomy.

The Muslim-majority Himalayan region had been under a strict lockdown since August 5 amid fears of unrest after the Indian government controversially abolished its semi-autonomous status.

Ahead of the autonomy decision, the head of Kashmir’s largest militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, Riyaz Naikoo, had warned that Indians in the territory would become legitimate targets if the valley’s status were changed.

“Militants shot at two apple traders from Punjab — Charanjeet and Sanjeev,” a senior police official told AFP late Wednesday, adding that one of the men died from the incident in Shopian district.

The other trader was in a critical condition in hospital, police added.

In a separate shooting earlier Wednesday, suspected militants killed a migrant labourer in the southern Rohmo village of Pulwama district, police said.

The two men’s deaths came a day after suspected militants killed a truck driver carrying apples, also in Shopian which is the valley’s biggest apple-growing district. His vehicle was set ablaze.

Authorities blocked text messaging services after the driver’s death.

New Delhi had just restored call and text services for mobile phones on Monday, following a 72-day communications blackout, although internet services remain blocked. Landlines were restored previously.

All three killed were not from Kashmir, which has been split between India and Pakistan since 1947 and has been the spark of two wars and numerous skirmishes.

New Delhi sent in tens of thousands of extra troops ahead of the autonomy move in what was already one of the world’s most heavily militarised zones.

 Explosion, gunfire 

Authorities repeatedly said during the lockdown that Kashmir was mostly peaceful.

Since August 5, protests have broken out, several civilians have died and security forces killed several militants in gun battles.

Early Wednesday, soldiers surrounded a residential area near Bijbehara town about 45 kilometres (28 miles) south of the main city of Srinagar after receiving reports about three alleged anti-India rebels.

“Three militants who all appear to be locals were killed in the operation in an exchange of fire, which was started based on intelligence about their presence in a house,” senior police officer Munir Khan told AFP.

Residents told AFP they were woken up by a loud explosion about 3:00 am local time, after which they heard gunfire that carried on intermittently for several hours.

Khan said their bodies were not retrieved from the house but that an automatic assault rifle and one pistol were found after the operation.

A witness told AFP via a mobile phone from the area that soldiers had blown up the house with explosives, sparking a fire that gutted the structure.

It was not clear if it was blown up before or after the gun fight.

An armed rebellion against Indian rule has raged in the valley since 1989, claiming tens of thousands of lives, mostly civilians.

The rebels have demanded independence or to join Pakistan which, like India, claims the region.

AFP

China Irks India Over Kashmir Two Days Before Summit

 

New Delhi reacted crossly Wednesday after Xi Jinping appeared again to back Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Kashmir, just two days before Indian premier Narendra Modi was due to host the Chinese president for an “informal summit”.

Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan since 1947, has been the spark for two wars between the nuclear-armed arch foes, and India’s scrapping of the region’s semi-autonomous status in August has further inflamed tensions.

Xi told Khan at talks in Beijing ahead of the Chinese leader’s meeting with Modi in Chennai on Friday and Saturday that Beijing was paying close attention and that the facts are clear, the Xinhua state news agency reported.

“China supports Pakistan to safeguard its own legitimate rights and hopes that the relevant parties can solve their disputes through peaceful dialogue,” Xi said.

A joint statement added that China “opposes any unilateral actions that complicate the situation” while the dispute “should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements.”

India’s foreign ministry said however: “India’s position has been consistent and clear that Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India. China is well aware of our position. It is not for other countries to comment on the internal affairs of India.”

‘Very delicate’ 

India and China’s ties have historically been testy, and recent events surrounding Kashmir — in particular Beijing’s diplomatic support to Islamabad at the United Nations — have added to strains.

“China sympathises and supports the situation faced by Pakistan on this issue. So, at present, the relationship between China and India has reached a very delicate point,” said Cheng Xiaohe at the Department of International Politics at Renmin University.

In addition, part of China’s Belt and Road initiative, a vast global infrastructure programme, includes a major project through Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a territory claimed by New Delhi.

India’s move in August to split Jammu and Kashmir state into two irked China because it will make the Ladakh region of the state a separate Indian administrative territory.

China thundered in August that India had “continued to undermine China’s territorial sovereignty by unilaterally changing its domestic law”.

Beijing claims parts of Buddhist-dominated Ladakh, perched on a steep Himalayan border with China’s restive Xinjiang to its north and Tibet to the east. India too says part of Ladakh under Chinese control belongs to New Delhi.

Last month Indian and Chinese troops engaged in what Indian media called a “scuffle” in Ladakh, in the same location where soldiers from the two nations threw stones at each other in August 2017.

That coincided with a much more serious face-off in the Doklam plateau claimed by both China and Bhutan, when Chinese soldiers started building a road and India sent its forces to halt the process.

Xi and Modi appeared to patch things up when they held a first informal summit in the Chinese city of Wuhan in April 2018.

But since then, in addition to events in Kashmir, India recently upgraded its participation in the Quad — a grouping with the United States, Australia and Japan that Washington hopes will counter China.

India also recently staged military exercises in Arunachal Pradesh state, part of which Beijing claims.

Common adversary 

India and China, home to more than a third of humanity, also have differences over trade, with both wanting greater market access, even if they share a common adversary in US President Donald Trump.

Xi, 66, was expected to press Modi, 69, to allow Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to take part in 5G trials, something which Washington has been pressing New Delhi not to permit because of security concerns.

“Frankly, the optics surrounding this visit don’t look very promising at the moment,” Harsh Pant, an international relations professor at King’s College London, told AFP. “If at all, the dynamic has become more conflictual.”

After India, Xi was due to make a state visit Nepal on Saturday and Sunday, the first by a Chinese president in more than two decades. India is also worried about losing influence to China there.

AFP

India Admits Shooting Down Its Own Helicopter

Demonstrators shout slogans during an anti-India protest in Lahore on August 27, 2019, as they condemn India’s decision to strip the disputed Kashmir region of its special autonomy and impose a lockdown earlier in August.

 

The Indian Air Force confirmed for the first time on Friday that it shot down one of its own helicopters during clashes with Pakistan in February over Kashmir, killing all six on board.

“A court of inquiry was completed and it was our mistake that our missile hit our chopper,” said the head of the Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Bhadauria.

“We will ensure such mistakes are not repeated in the future,” he told reporters.

The military helicopter crashed on February 27 as Indian and Pakistani aircraft engaged in dogfights over Kashmir in their most serious military skirmish in years.

A day earlier Indian aircraft had bombed what New Delhi called a “terror camp” used by the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group in the Balakot area of Pakistan.

That followed a suicide bombing on February 14 claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed that killed 40 Indian troops.

The Indian military at the time gave no reason for the helicopter crash although media reports cited unnamed sources as saying it was friendly fire.

Confusion still surrounds how many other aircraft were shot down, with Pakistan saying it downed two Indian fighter jets but India saying it lost only one.

India meanwhile said it shot down an Pakistani F-16 — an assertion repeated by Bhadauria on Friday — but Pakistan denied this at the time.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947 and has been the spark of two wars and several clashes. China also claims a part of the Himalayan region.

Tensions have spiked again since India revoked the autonomy of the part of Kashmir that it controls on August 5.

 

AFP