Described as the deadliest insurgent attack in the three-decade Kashmir insurgency, the Pulwama suicide attack has once again trigged war hysteria between the two nuclear-armed neighbouring countries.
Adil Ahmad Dar, the 20 year old Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) suicide bomber behind the Pulwama attack, decided to join JeM after he and his friends were beaten by troops in 2016 while returning back home from school. Adil’s story is not the first of its kind of a youth deciding to join insurgent groups. It is similar to stories of all other young Kashmiri men who have decided to join insurgent ranks in what is described as the new wave of Kashmir insurgency since the killing of Burhan Wani.
Hailing from Kakapora, Adil is the most recent example of youth’s engagement in insurgency. The main factor contributing to the surge of locals joining insurgent outfits in recent years is the prevailing atmosphere created by unabated human rights violations of Indian forces. The 49-page United Nations human rights report, the first of its kind, on Jammu and Kashmir sheds light on the human rights violations perpetrated by the Indian forces.
Such an environment has not only created hatred towards India and a sense of alienation among Kashmiris but has also created a realization that taking arms is the only way forward. Such realisation has also forced even the most pacific minds in Kashmir to take arms against India’s inhumane treatment of Kashmiris.
Apart from the enabling environment which radicalises the youth, it is pertinent to mention here that the current nature of security dynamics in Kashmir are drastically different from what was observed during the 1990s. In the current phase, insurgent groups are virtually targeting Indian security personnel. In the past five years, a 93 per cent of fatalities of Indian security personnel have been witnessed in the Indian held Jammu and Kashmir, with most of the attacks occurring in the Pulwama region.
Although India keeps reiterating that Indian held Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the Indian Union, the United Nations doesn’t subscribe to such assertion. Jammu and Kashmir is an UN-recognised disputed territory. The international organization recognised the right of self-determination of Jammu and Kashmir in 1948-1949 through various UN Security Council resolutions. In 1974, it reaffirmed that states should avoid the use of armed force to deprive ‘peoples of their right to self-determination’. Similarly, the UN restated that armed struggle is part of all available means to those people who struggle for ‘…liberation from colonial or foreign domination and foreign occupation…’ in 1982.
India itself continues to maintain a special status of Indian held Jammu and Kashmir through Articles 35-A and 370 of the Indian Constitution which allows the held Jammu and Kashmir to have its own constitution. In fact, Jammu and Kashmir has its own flag and residents of the state enjoy dual citizenship. Similarly, Indian nationals who are not from Jammu and Kashmir are not allowed to purchase land or establish business in the state. In recent times, India has been taking initiatives to erode the special status of Jammu and Kashmir but the constitutional articles continue to shield the special status of the Indian held Jammu and Kashmir. Some Indian writers believe that Article 370 was the beginning of a process and is not an immutable endgame but Indian Supreme Court has stated that the article has acquired permanent status through years of existence.
From the international law perspective, Jammu and Kashmir people have been given the legitimacy to resort to agitation for exercising their right to self-determination. However, it is pertinent to mention here that any use of force in either occupation or in an armed conflict must comply with International Humanitarian Law (IHL). In the case of India-held Jammu and Kashmir, both Indian forces and Kashmiri fighters qualify as combatants. IHL violations can lead to the commission of war crimes and punishable offences under international law. While in conflict, combatants have the status of being actively engaged in hostilities and can be targeted even when they are not directly participating in hostilities such as stationed at military installations or travelling as military convoys. According to IHL, lethal force can only be constituted legal when the following parameters are complied with:
- Military Necessity
- Avoidance of unnecessary suffering
Analyzing Pulwama attack from an international law perspective helps in vividly clarifying that the attack was not a terrorist attack. Adil Ahmad Dar was a Kashmiri fighter (combatant) who solely (distinction) targeted Indian forces (enemy combatants) though an explosive-laden SUV (proportionated in comparison to India’s excessive use of lethal force without creating distinction between combatants and non-combatants). Apart from causing damage to Indian forces, the attack did not cause any unnecessary suffering. All these facts assert that Pulwama attack was in total compliance with IHL.
India’s belligerent attitude towards Pakistan following Pulwama attack has resulted in causing more harm to itself. The International Olympic Committee has announced suspension of talks with India on any future sporting events. Indian traders are expected to suffer more the cessation of bilateral trade with Pakistan.
History is testament to the fact that war brings nothing more than destruction, chaos and misery. With significant developments taking place regarding Afghan peace process and the realisation of CPEC, it is important that Pakistan and India should resolve all outstanding issues through the medium of dialogue. For successful dialogue process, it is important that both countries should take confidence building measures to remove existing animosity. It is also important that India realises the need to change its belligerent attitude. Dialogue has proved to be the most effective way to resolve conflicts. The world will witness a catastrophe of its own kind if 1.5 billion people are engaged in war between two nuclear-armed countries.