There have historically been poor diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan. The most recent tensions between the two nations began on Dec. 13 of last year, when Pakistani militants attacked the Indian Parliament in New Delhi, an incident in which 11 people were killed.
The BBC reported that the groups which committed the act were Islamic militants from Pakistan who some in India believed had ties with the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s intelligence agency. Since that time there has been much militarization on the shared border of India and Pakistan, especially in Kashmir.
CNN reports that there are regular exchanges of artillery fire across the Line of Control which divides the Pakistani and Indian controlled parts of Kashmir. Adding to the stakes is the fact that both countries have nuclear capabilities?India tested a long-range missile delivery system last Friday.
The region of Kashmir has always been a point of conflict between the nations of India and Pakistan.
According to the British Broadcasting Corporation Kashmir, which is over 60 percent Muslim and the only state within India where Muslims are a majority, has been disputed since 1947 when the British left the subcontinent and both countries established independence. Two of the three wars fought between the countries have been over the disputed region.
UR students with ties to these countries have been effected by the latest events.
Junior Meghna Kumar, who was born in India and has family there, said “I don’t think this will ever be resolved because people are brought up being taught that people from the other country are the enemy.” She added that she thinks the conflict is rooted in cultural aspects of society, and not religious ones.
Other students see a connection to more recent events. “I link it to the war on terrorism” said junior Mansoor Khan, who lived in Pakistan for seven years. “The issue itself is still the same” he said. “Because of the change in rhetoric the situation has been escalated even more.” He pointed out that most of the dialogue now centers around the concept of terrorism.
Indian Home Secretary Kamal Pande would agree. He believes that a “new trend” was emerging, featuring the “direct involvement of Pakistani nationals in terrorist, espionage and subversive activities in India.” Pande was quoted by the BBC as saying “There is hardly any doubt now about the role of Pakistani nationals and Pakistan-based terrorist groups in this case.”
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said on Sunday Jan. 20 that India wanted friendship with all countries, including Pakistan, but that would not be possible as long as it was the target of terrorism, Reuters reported.
CNN reported on Tuesday that India has rejected Pakistan’s offer to hold talks on a phased withdrawal of troops massed along their joint border. Indian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao said such talks would be meaningless until Pakistan stopped what she called cross border terrorism and “harboring terrorists.”
UR students don’t take such an extreme view of the recent events. Senior Rahul Bijlani, who lived in India before immigrating to the United States when he came to UR, and was in India during winter break, said that it’s hard for Indians’ to understand the idea of “freedom fighters” or Kashmir persecution because there are many Muslims in India and they are not persecuted. He feels that the media is making more of the conflict than what is actually happening.
Junior Saira Khowaja, who is an international student and currently lives in Pakistan, shares similar views on the media. “The media makes it worse than it actually is,” she said, referring not only to the Kashmir situation but also the unrest in Pakistan.
Khowaja also felt that neither India nor Pakistan could stand the idea of losing to the other in any way, which creates these periodic outbreaks of violence. “The best way to solve it is to ask what the Kashmiri people want to do instead of leaving it up to India or Pakistan,” she said.
Many students felt that while these skirmishes seem almost inevitable there is little to no chance of anything substantial happening. “It is extremely unlikely that there will be conflict. I was there, it’s all media hype,” said Bijlani.
In a televised speech made on Jan. 13 Pakistani Chairman Musharraf announced that two groups India blames for an attack on its parliament last month, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, are now banned.
“I think it’s a good thing, they preach something that is not really true, they turn Islam into something violent when it is really a very peaceful religion” said Khowaja, commenting on Musharraf’s decision. “If he’s going to ban terrorist groups, it has to be more than just words,” said Bijlani, “there have to be changes on the ground.”
Muhlenberg can be reached at email@example.com.