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India to blame for having escalated tensions in disputed Kashmir region

The Yomiuri ShimbunTensions have escalated further in the Kashmir region where India and Pakistan are vying with each other for territorial rights. India, which has aggravated the situation, bears a heavy responsibility.

India has stripped the right of autonomy for the majority-Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir in northern India, provoking a backlash from local residents and Pakistan.

Residents in the India-administered part of Kashmir have a low sense of belonging to India, a country where Hindus make up about 80 percent of the population. With voices demanding independence also strong, autonomy had been recognized by India for about 70 years.

Saying that Islamic extremist groups, using the state as their foothold, are launching terrorist attacks against India, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi claims that direct rule on the Indian-held part of Kashmir will rid the region of terrorism, thereby advancing development.

After signing a presidential order to strip Kashmir’s right to self-rule, Modi mobilized security troops to the region, detaining a large number of pro-independence activists and others opposing India’s actions. The internet and phone services have also been cut off.

Given this, how can the country regard itself as the world’s largest democracy? These are excessively heavy-handed methods of administration.

With the latest decision, even Indians outside the state will be allowed to purchase property there. The possibility exists that the demographics will change once many Hindus migrate to the region. Such a development makes it inevitable that conflict between Hindus and Muslims will intensify.

Exercise self-restraint

Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party upholds Hindu supremacy. During the general elections held this spring, the party appealed to voters with its hard-line stance toward Pakistan and direct rule of the Kashmir region, winning in a landslide.

To avert firmly rooted criticism about its economic management, India is pursuing a perilous tactic to inflame the rivalry with Pakistan, which has Islam as its state religion, and to fan religious hostility. Rule by force may invite divisions in society and terrorism, leading to instability within India.

Pakistan has taken countermeasures such as a temporary suspension of trade with India and retrenchment in diplomatic relations. China, which also effectively controls part of the Kashmir region, has increased its criticism of India’s action as undermining China’s territorial sovereignty.

Worrisome is that this will develop into a large-scale military conflict between India and Pakistan. In February, a suicide-bomb attack in Kashmir triggered India’s launching of airstrikes on Pakistan, followed by Pakistan’s shooting down of Indian warplanes.

India, Pakistan and China are all nuclear-armed countries. Regional tensions must not escalate any further.

That the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is taking a wait-and-see approach over the situation leaves something to be desired. The Modi administration is refusing U.S. intervention.

For the realization of the Indo-Pacific scheme that Japan and the United States commonly advocate, the stability of relations between India and Pakistan is essential. Japan and the United States should encourage both countries to exercise maximum self-restraint and to hold dialogue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 19, 2019)Speech



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