Kashmir security and separation fence
Israel is in the international
spotlight regarding its need to build a security and separation
fence while Kashmir’s fence receives barely a mention b y the
international community and media. In fact, the issue of Israel’s
security fence against terrorism was brought before the
International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to stand trial for
attempting to protect its citizens from harm’s way. The story was
given much media attention. Even Pakistan has been more severe in
its public attacks on the Israeli barrier than on the Indian one.
Although Pakistan expresses its fear a permanent partition, India
says it is successful at keeping out
insurgents. The dispute remains civil.
Enemies stand so close along this
Kashmir frontier that in good times India n soldiers can shout
across the “no-man’s land” and invite Pakistani troops over for
lunch. When the mood sours, they have a clear shot at each other.
These days, something more than the decades-old hostilities is
separating the antagonists, a 500 mile-long, 12 foot-tall
barbed-wire fence. India is building the barrier in an attempt to
seal the rugged frontier against infiltration by guerrillas and
militants battling to reunite the Indian controlled section of
Kashmir with that ruled by Pakistan to the west. A small par t of
Kashmir is also under Chinese control.
Pakistan fears that India wants to
create what analysts and diplomats call “facts on the ground” and
cement the 57-year-old division of mainly Muslim Kashmir. India
insists that it has the right to build the barrier in what it
considers an integral part of India. As they two neighbours and
rivals prepare for the start of landmark peace talks over Kashmir
and other issues this month, India and Pakistan are keeping their
argument over the fence civil.
The two nations declared a cease-fire
between their regular forces in November, and at least on the
Bakarprur front, the old notion has proven true – A GOOD FENCE MAKES
Last month, soldiers from India’s 60th
Battalion of the Border Security Force hollered through the barrier,
over a deep trench and across the “no-man’ s land” and to invite
Pakistanis over to celebrate a Muslim festival. About 100 Pakistani
villagers and a few members of Pakistan’s paramilitary Rangers force
visited the tomb of a Muslim saint and joined Indian forces for
lunch, according to Inspector Rajinder Kumar, a unit commander of
the Indian border force. It was the first time in 17 years that
anyone from Pakistan’s side of the front line had been allowed to
“After the announcement of the
cease-fire things have been much more friendly,” the inspector said.
The mood was a lot more hostile a year ago, when India began
building the fence. Most of the work was done during the night to
avoid Pakistani fire, said Kashmir Governor S.K. Sinha who
represents the Indian government in the territory. Last May,
Pakistani troops tried to disrupt construction by opening fire for
several hours along the Bakarpur front line and at least two other
areas. Kumar said he lost two soldiers to the cross-border fire.
The new barrier consists of two fences
with an eight-foot gap in the middle filled with coils of
razor-sharp concertina wire. The fence snakes across the divided
territory, hugging the Line of Control – a 1972 cease-fire line that
divides the territory – and zigzagging through barren mountains as
high as 12,000 feet. At construction workers complete a section on
plains near Bakarpur, about 25 miles northwest of Kashmir’s winter
capital, Jammu, Indian soldiers are digging up land mines laid when
India and Pakistan almost went to war for a fourth time in 2002.
Local farmers are taking advantage of the peace along the border to
open up feeding grounds for their livestock, such as water buffaloes
that graze next to the barbed-wire barrier along the border.
It is an expensive engineering feat,
but Indian officials won’t say what it costs, or exactly what
high-tech equipment is used for the barrier. The plan is to
electrify the fence. If successful this would be a major
accomplishment because many Kashmiris live with only intermittent
power or none. Sinha didn’t want to discuss details such as planned
voltage. “It will be a shock, but whether it will be fatal or not I
cannot say. It is still being worked out,” Sinha said.
India has also tested a combination of
Israeli and U.S. electronic equipment, such as motion detectors,
thermal imaging cameras and unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to
make it much more difficult to slip through the fence . An Indian
intelligence official reported that at least some of the remote
sensors haven’t performed very well under heavy snow conditions and
freezing temperatures prevalent in Kashmir’s soaring Himalayas. The
cease-fire may be the most important component of security against
guerrilla and militant infiltrators.
If peace talks fail, and the
cease-fire breaks down, some well-aimed artillery shells could
destroy sections of the fence and quickly reopen guerrilla and
militant infiltration routes. India has long accused Pakistan of
provoking artillery battles as a diversion to help these
infiltrators cross into Indian-held Kashmir.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf
recently warned that he would pull out of peace negotiations if
there was no significant progress toward resolving the Kashmir
dispute by August. Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokkar, the top
civil servant under the Foreign Minister, said India’s fence would
be discussed at the coming negotiation sessions this month in May
and will lead to a Foreign Ministers summit in August. This meeting
will determine whether there has been enough progress to continue
negotiations. Apparently eager to set the right tone of the talks,
Pakistan’s government has been very diplomatic in criticism of
Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan
declined several requests to explain Pakistan’s view of the barrier.
The legislative assembly in the third of Kashmir under Pakistan’s
control, however, condemned India’s fence as a violation of human
rights and United Nations resolutions on the disputed territory in
April. The long fight for control of the once sovereign state of
Jammu and Kashmir began immediately after Britain granted
independence to India and Pakistan in 1947, leaving the Hindu
maharajah, or prince, to decide which country the state would join.
Maharajah Hari Singh first insisted on remaining independent, but
when Pakistan’s new army sent in troops to back rebel fighters, he
agreed to join India in exchange for military aid. Pakistan claims
the treaty of accession isn’t valid and wants Kashmiris to decide
their fate in a referendum first called for in a 1948 U.N. Security
Sinha, the Indian governor, is a
retired army lieutenant-general who fought in the 1947 war and has
spent most of his life defending the territory. He is a big fan of
the fence. Sinha commented, “I wish we had built it ten years ago.”
The barrier and remote sensors paid off in February by alerting
security forces to militant infiltrators and seven were captured,
according to Sinha. India’s government says the number of guerrillas
and militants infiltrating from Pakistan has dropped sharply but
that these infiltrators continue to c ross into Indian Kashmir. “Its
not impossible to get past the fence. It’s just a preventative
measure,” said Kumar of the Indian border
“If someone comes and cuts the wires,
its easy for them to get through. Its still human beings who are
going to prevent them with ambushes.” The best way to cement a
divide between neighbours who can’t get along is to build a barrier
for security and separation between them. A barrier and bridge will
also lead to negotiations for peace.
Good fences make good neighbours!!!