Today marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the 1965 war between India and Pakistan. This was a highly destructive war which took the lives of thousands of soldiers on both sides despite there being no large-scale changes to territorial control. What’s more, the 1965 war set the stage for a much larger and more deadly war in 1971, which led to thousands more deaths. This 1965 Indo-Pakistani war, as well as every following conflict, was fought over the disputed region of Kashmir, part of which is controlled by India and the other by Pakistan. These regions are separated by a no-mans land called the Line of Control (LOC) which is one of the most dangerous borders in the world.
Indian and Pakistani troops very often fire across the LOC at one another, mostly with small arms but also often with heavier artillery and mortars. As well, proxy militias operated by each side conduct guerrilla raids on the forces of the opposing nation, making the area yet more dangerous. Such attacks have killed tens of soldiers and civilians since the start of this year.
Just today, 50 years on from the first war over this disputed region, another deadly incident occurred. According to reports, soldiers from both sides of the LOC began to fire artillery shells. Unfortunately, like in many previous incidents, it was the civilians living in the area near the border that paid the price.
According to Pakistani Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR), at least 6 Pakistani civilians in the town of Sialkot were killed, and another 40 injured. This attack was labelled as “unprovoked firing and shelling in Charwa Sector near the Sialkot Working Boundary”. The Pakistani military also confirmed that it had “returned fire” on Indian positions.
On the other side, 3 civilians were killed and 17 injured. India’s Border Security Force (BSF) also claimed that it was merely returning fire.
“Pakistan Rangers resorted to unprovoked firing. Initially, small were used but later mortar bombs were shelled on BSF posts and civilian areas,” a BSF spokesperson reportedly said. “The BSF also gave a fitting reply.”
Putting aside the human tragedy of this situation, and the callous rhetoric applied by both sides, renewed fighting in Kashmir is a hugely worrisome geopolitical issue. Both sides in this conflict are nuclear-armed and field massive standing armies. While they have a lot to lose from a breakout of intensified fighting, both also are still unafraid to ratchet up the regional tension in order to appease voters and their respective military establishments.
Within such an environment it only takes a single mistake, or a single cross-border incident that gets out of hand, to set the entire region alight. Previously, we have labelled this the ‘Most Dangerous Border in the World’, and indeed, it is a title that is well-deserved.