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World What’s going on in Kashmir? A guide to the story so far

Lahore, Pakistan, Aug. 16: Mohammad Aslam, father of Taimoor Aslam – one of the three soldiers who, according to Pakistan's army, were killed in a cross-border exchange of fire on Kashmir's Line of Control – is comforted by relatives while waiting for his son's body at his home.

Mohsin Raza/Reuters

The latest

  • The UN Security Council is meeting behind closed doors Friday to discuss the situation in Kashmir after India downgraded the region’s statehood and imposed a military crackdown on public assembly, communication and travel. UN officials said the session may be its first on Kashmir since the late 1990s, or possibly since the 1971 India-Pakistan war.
  • The UN meeting was called by China and Pakistan, who have competing claims to the border valley. Pakistan and India have fought two wars and many deadly skirmishes there over the decades. According to Pakistan, this latest escalation has claimed six lives so far: Four soldiers and two civilians killed by Indian fire across the Line of Control.
  • Muslims in Indian-held Kashmir observed Friday prayers under strict military restrictions, while the government in New Delhi said the lockdown would be gradually eased in the coming days.
  • For two-and-a-half weeks, millions of Kashmiris on the Indian side of the Line of Control have been cut off from the outside world. Members of Canada’s Kashmiri diaspora told The Globe and Mail they’re been worried for loved ones that they’ve lost contact with. “It kind of feels like the apocalypse,” said Womic Baba, 31, of Toronto, who hadn’t spoken to his parents in more than a week. “With the 21st century, you can’t call your parents back home.”


The crackdown in Kashmir so far

Srinagar, Aug. 15: Indian paramilitary soldiers patrol on the road toward a parade venue for Indian independence day festivities.

Dar Yasin/The Associated Press

Since Aug. 4, Indian troops have had the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir under a tight security lockdown: Phone and internet communications are mostly cut off, public assemblies are banned, barricades and razor wire have cut off travel between neighbourhoods and several Kashmiri leaders, even some who support India’s continued ownership of Kashmir, are under house arrest. Tensions along the border with Pakistan – which administers another part of Kashmir and, like India, claims ownership of the entire region – have risen even higher than usual as India has deployed tens of thousands of additional troops to what was already one of the most militarized places in the world.

Watch: Get caught up with a timeline of key events leading up to the Indian government's crackdown in Kashmir. The Associated Press

India’s new plan for Kashmir

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MURAT Yükselir / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: graphic news; tilezen;

openstreetmap contributers; reuters

Ever since India and Pakistan’s partition in 1947, the struggle for control of the Kashmir valley that lies between the two countries has claimed tens of thousands of lives. Under British colonial rule, it was a princely state called Jammu and Kashmir, but now it’s split between Indian- and Pakistani-controlled areas, which some parts held or claimed by neighbouring China. So far, there have been two Indo-Pakistani wars and several skirmishes over the border between the areas of control. And since 1989, insurgents in Muslim-majority Kashmir have been fighting against majority-Hindu India, pushing for either independence or union with Muslim Pakistan.

Before the recent crackdown began, Indian-administered Kashmir was its own state, called Jammu and Kashmir, that had special constitutional status. Article 370 gave Kashmir more legislative autonomy from India and barred outsiders from buying land there, though they were allowed to hold it on long-term leases. But on Aug. 5, the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi scrapped Article 370, revoked Jammu and Kashmir's statehood and split it into two federal territories: one called Jammu and Kashmir, the other called Ladakh.

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Mr. Modi’s argument is that “mainstreaming” Kashmir will deter terrorism and separatism and lift barriers to investment there. The economic argument is flawed: Kashmir already outperforms India on measures such as life expectancy, literacy and poverty, and its economy has been growing steadily this decade. To the Modi government’s critics, opening up Kashmir to outside business interests is really a strategy to assimilate it into India by allowing more Hindus to purchase real estate and apply for government jobs there, tilting the demographic balance in India’s favour.

Where Pakistan stands

Islamabad, Aug. 6: Supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami party shout anti-Indian slogans during a protest.

Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan has denounced the changes to Kashmir’s constitutional status as illegal and has downgraded its diplomatic ties with New Delhi, expelled the Indian ambassador and suspended trade and train services. The government is also pushing for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council, saying India’s move threatens international peace and could lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide.

On Pakistan’s Aug. 14 independence day, Prime Minister Imran Khan made his first visit to the Pakistani part of Kashmir, called Azad Kashmir, where he gave a speech in the capital, Muzaffarabad. There, he accused Mr. Modi’s government of planning military action to assert Indian control over the whole Kashmir valley: “The Pakistani army is fully aware that they [India] have made a plan of taking action in Azad Kashmir,” he said.

Where China stands

China's President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan before an April meeting in Beijing.

Madoka Ikegami/Getty Images

China has also denounced India’s actions in Kashmir, supporting Pakistan in taking up the issue at the UN Security Council and possibly the UN Human Rights Commission. Beijing’s stand against the crackdown in Kashmir has been met with some skepticism, given that the tactics used there – communication blackouts, heavy street security, official rhetoric denouncing terrorism and separatism – are also employed in China’s crackdown on Uyghur Muslims in its western region of Xinjiang. The Kashmir situation “sounds eerily similar to what has been done in China,” Saba Naqvi, author of a book on the recent history of Mr. Modi’s BJP party, told The Globe and Mail.

More reading

The Globe in Kashmir: Reporting from Nathan VanderKlippe

India tightens grip in Kashmir with mosque closings, heavy military presence

Analysis and commentary

Sonya Fatah: Where are the Kashmiris? Caught between two extremes

Editorial: After Kashmir, is India becoming an illiberal democracy?


Compiled by Globe staff

Associated Press and Reuters, with reports from Nathan VanderKlippe


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