Why India Shouldn't Attack Pakistan

Conflict in Kashmir : India and Pakistan close to the border

Will it go well? The Pakistani border guards could hardly look more aggressive. The group of six marched towards the Indian border guards with their eyes wide open, their fists clenched. “Pakistaaaaan”, the audience shouted, accompanied by a drum roll. This adds to the excitement that can easily get out of hand in this region.

But everyone can breathe a sigh of relief, here at the Wagah border crossing. On the other hand, the Indians are shouting the same way. This theatrical thunder in worn gala uniforms is a daily spectacle. A show of military might on the border between Lahore in Pakistan and Amritsar in India.

For weeks, however, the real dispute over Kashmir, which is shared between the two countries, has been escalating again. The province a little further north, for which the nuclear powers have already fought two wars. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, and the Pakistani, Nawaz Sharif, at least verbally endanger the peace on one of the most dangerous borders in the world almost every day. The situation is so serious that UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has now offered to mediate. The Federal Foreign Office is now also warning against traveling to Indian Kashmir.

A ranger in an olive green uniform catches his breath: What is this little boy doing? He won't ...! A boy crawls to the border gate and waves a green and white Pakistan flag. The ranger struggles to hold him back. Finally, the father takes care, the guard is relieved. How easy could it get serious by accident? The security precautions around Wagah have been even stricter since an attack on the spectacle two years ago. 60 people died at that time.

"Every inch of the beloved fatherland"

The exaggerated gestures of the acting border guards are grimmer these days than usual, say locals. Maybe it's a good thing that this theater still exists - to let off steam. As comedy as the ceremony is, the conflict over the mountainous region of Kashmir is everything else. At least since Indian soldiers shot dead the 22-year-old separatist leader Burhan Wani, who was revered by his supporters as the new Che Guevara in July. For India he was a pro-Pakistani terrorist. Then 18 Indian soldiers were killed in September and Delhi immediately blamed Pakistan.

Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif brought Kashmir to the UN general debate and drew a parallel with the situation of the Palestinians. His army landed Mirage jets on a freeway. An unmistakable greeting to Delhi - and its own people: Nobody can do anything to us. The army chief threatened to defend "every inch of the beloved fatherland". India, the enemy - the picture is omnipresent.

Since the subcontinent was divided in 1947, the dispute over the former principality in Asia, inhabited by Muslims, has simmered. Rebels have been fighting for independence since 1989, many of them ultimately joining Pakistan. A ceasefire was negotiated in 2003, but there are repeated attacks and riots. For weeks now, pictures of young people have been going around the world again, shot at with so-called pellets - some died, many lost their sight.

Are these people just extras in a cynical power game? The rivals in Delhi and Islamabad are not only fighting for Kashmir, but for their place in the world.

From the Wagah border crossing it goes north, into the heart of Kashmir. After the morning rain, the haze slowly loosens, dense trees line the serpentines, occasionally revealing a view of a karst landscape. A river meanders in the depths. In Muzaffarabad, capital of "Azad Kashmir", as the Pakistani part is called, it is quiet. Except for the cars and mopeds honking in the narrow streets.

Many residents fled Keran in Indian Kashmir for the Pakistani part a quarter of a century ago. The prime minister of the semi-autonomous “Azad Kashmir”, Raja Muhammad Faruk Haider Khan, calls the place beyond the demarcation line a “24-hour concentration camp” - from the point of view of the Pakistani people there were unbearable hardships and repression there. Most who have fled want peace and quiet and the right to choose their future. Meanwhile, politicians are beating the drum for the world finally making Kashmir a concern despite the wars in the Middle East.

The roles are clearly assigned. “We don't want conflict management, that works fine for three or four months at best. We want a solution to the conflict, ”demands the Pakistani provincial prime minister Khan at his massive desk in Islamabad. For him, the outcome of a vote would be clear: affiliation with Pakistan. Kashmir could not exist independently between its neighbors.

Paint is peeling off the ceiling, the provincial chief is playing with a pen. He mistrusts India. If things go on like this, well: “Things could get out of control.” The world wars would have shown how easily this could happen. Pakistan should call the UN Security Council: “We are not preparing for war. We want peace, prosperity, an end to poverty, clean water, schools. ”Then - as observers think - are Islamists perhaps taking advantage of the situation to prevent the two nuclear powers from raping? Provincial Prime Minister Khan evades when he says: "Nobody in Kashmir likes fundamentalists."

Some of those who came from the Indian-controlled Keran are studying and working on a handicraft project run by a development foundation. Sometimes they drive to where their Keran is on the opposite bank of the border river. If the soldiers mean well, they can throw something over to their relatives. There are videos of such scenes.

“The houses are still there, we can see the village,” says Mumtaz Khan. The slim 29-year-old tailor smiles in embarrassment. "A lot of feelings come up." He wipes the sweat from his forehead. Cousins ​​and aunts still live there, and an uncle has been locked up again and again. “Three years, two, one time, one and a half months, a year last time.” At the moment he has no contact with the relatives, the telephone connections are blocked.

Does he expect war? "If the others attack, there will certainly be an answer," he says cautiously. If it were up to him, the Kashmiris should decide for themselves. “It would be a big deal to finally be free,” he says. He would vote to join Pakistan. And "inshallah", Allah willing, he will also be able to experience that. Outside the muezzin is calling. On the first floor a colleague sings while embroidering: "My country, one day I will go and drive the people out there"

Pakistan does business with China - also a rival to India

In the bazaar they strike a belligerent tone. Mechanical engineering student Hassan Alazaz says: India is destroying Kashmir, “They are shooting people's eyes, that must be stopped immediately. The Pakistani army should go in and help the people ”- preferably with the mujahideen, warriors of God. He didn't want to go to war himself, he was more interested in girls.

The spokesman for the legislative assembly in the province knows his role and portrays the atrocities in Indian Kashmir. Shah Ghulam Qadir sits statesmanlike in his traditional white shalwar kameez with a coarse vest on the sofa in his wood-paneled office in Muzaffarabad. “You're Germans, you know the wall. Why does this wall have to exist between us? ”He asks the German journalists invited by the“ Institute for Strategic Studies ”in Islamabad. On his laptop he shows pictures of the brutal actions of the Indian security forces. "They did not shoot on the legs, but on the chest and face. 150 they shot blind, 116 are dead."

If this continues, says provincial Prime Minister Khan, "it will be very difficult for us to live on this side and remain peaceful". He proudly says that Pakistan's Prime Minister Sharif was with them before he presented their demands in New York: The solution would be tripartite talks - between the Kashmiris, who should decide for themselves, the Indians, who ignored UN resolutions they supported, and the Pakistani government. But first the attacks would have to stop. Sure who, in his view, has the role of evil.

Cashmere is and will remain a special wound. But soon the Pakistani government wants to do big deals with India's rival China. In addition, Muslim Pakistan is trying to shake off its image of the terrorist state.

Since the 22-year-old separatist and the Indian soldiers died in the summer, the situation has escalated almost day by day. On the Indian side, more than 10,000 residents were recently relocated, the broadcaster CNN reported. In cities along the border, blackouts apply in the evenings, say Pakistanis. The closely connected cultural scenes also suffer. Pakistani actors have been banned from the sets in Bollywood, Pakistani cinemas do not show Indian films. That hits many Pakistanis hard. Indian pop is booming from the cars of the party crowd in Lahore.

Between Islamists and modernity

The fact that Pakistan is torn is particularly evident in the twelve million metropolis of Lahore. On Saturday night, the traffic jams like on Berlin's Kudamm after winning an international match. Middle class women now go out alone, even in blouses and trousers, and no longer even have a pro forma scarf with them. On the other hand, many women are out and about in burqas, and it is not only modern big cities that are gaining influence, but also Islamists.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Sharif is currently under pressure because he appeared in the Panama Papers. And disappointed supporters complain that he did not keep his election promises. There may be more electricity in Islamabad, and little else has changed. Many young Pakistanis want to make something out of their lives. You are annoyed by the war rhetoric. And not everyone is sure whether one side can be provoked and a war will start. Some Pakistanis say: Sharif and Modi are at best constructors who could build something technically, but not political leaders who understand foreign policy.

For possible progress, however, the entire social structure of the country would have to change. The children of the rich could not even spell “parliament”, criticize criticism, because the upper class offspring mistook college for a party - these children do not need to graduate.

His brother is more likely to have a more positive image than the prime minister. Shabaz Sharif is Prime Minister of Pakistan's largest province, Punjab. He presents himself as a doer and receives the journalists on a Sunday morning at 9 a.m. His beige shirt is reminiscent of a British colonial uniform, the damaged back is supported by a black "Molty Foam Back Care" pillow. "The monster terror" cannot be defeated, says Sharif, as long as there are not enough well-trained people, jobs and health care and the intolerance in his country does not decrease. It is important to teach good Islam, all religions should live together peacefully - basically everything that the western heart desires. But, he says, that won't happen overnight. The planned cooperation with China will help, and he would also like to see German investors. He'd rather talk about his country's controversial blasphemy law another time. Not that long about cashmere either. He thanked Angela Merkel profusely for her refugee policy and raised his index finger imploringly: "Germany has a heart."

Incidentally, with divided Kashmir, it was "as if the entire Federal Republic were free and liberal, had all their rights and there was a corner where this did not apply". It is "high time that the international community come together and act. Germany should do something. ”The red line for his country? "If they," - the Indians - "God forbid attack Pakistan."

India announced last week that it had "surgical strikes" to eliminate terrorists in the Pakistani part. Pakistan condemned the "open aggression" but denied that the Indians had invaded Pakistani territory. Even if it had been otherwise, the Pakistanis would have avoided such an open war. Pakistan's Prime Minister Sharif met opposition party leaders earlier this week. Let the world see that they are the good guys.

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