Pakistan shows off military might after Kashmir dispute with India

A military parade to mark Republic Day included a display of the homemade JF-17 fighter jet. Tensions with India remain high over last month's suicide attack in Kashmir that killed 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers.

Pakistan's military paraded missiles, tanks and aircraft on Saturday in an apparent show of strength towards neighboring India following last month's deadly attack in the disputed region of Kashmir.

Troops marched through the streets of the capital, Islamabad, while warplanes staged acrobatic flyovers, to mark the country's Republic Day. 

The parade, watched by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, who was guest of honor, included an air show featuring the Pakistani-built JF-17 fighter jet. One of the aircraft shot down an Indian plane last month.

Read more: Indian TV channels have become 'graphic war rooms'

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

An unprecedented danger?

On February 27, Pakistan's military said that it had shot down two Indian fighter jets over disputed Kashmir. A Pakistani military spokesman said the jets were shot down after they'd entered Pakistani airspace. It is the first time in history that two nuclear-armed powers have conducted air strikes against each other.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

India drops bombs inside Pakistan

The Pakistani military has released this image to show that Indian warplanes struck inside Pakistani territory for the first time since the countries went to war in 1971. India said the air strike was in response to a recent suicide attack on Indian troops based in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan said there were no casualties and that its airforce repelled India's aircraft.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

No military solution

Some Indian civil society members believe New Delhi cannot exonerate itself from responsibility by accusing Islamabad of creating unrest in the Kashmir valley. A number of rights organizations demand that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government reduce the number of troops in Kashmir and let the people decide their fate.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

No end to the violence

On February 14, at least 41 Indian paramilitary police were killed in a suicide bombing near the capital of India-administered Kashmir. The Pakistan-based Jihadi group, Jaish-e-Mohammad, claimed responsibility. The attack, the worst on Indian troops since the insurgency in Kashmir began in 1989, spiked tensions and triggered fears of an armed confrontation between the two nuclear-armed powers.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

A bitter conflict

Since 1989, Muslim insurgents have been fighting Indian forces in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir - a region of 12 million people, about 70 percent of whom are Muslim. India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over Kashmir, which they both claim in full but rule in part.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

India strikes down a militant rebellion

In October 2016, the Indian military has launched an offensive against armed rebels in Kashmir, surrounding at least 20 villages in Shopian district. New Delhi accused Islamabad of backing the militants, who cross over the Pakistani-Indian "Line of Control" and launch attacks on India's paramilitary forces.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

Death of a Kashmiri separatist

The security situation in the Indian part of Kashmir deteriorated after the killing of Burhan Wani, a young separatist leader, in July 2016. Protests against Indian rule and clashes between separatists and soldiers have claimed hundreds of lives since then.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

The Uri attack

In September 2016, Islamist militants killed at least 17 Indian soldiers and wounded 30 in India-administered Kashmir. The Indian army said the rebels had infiltrated the Indian part of Kashmir from Pakistan, with initial investigations suggesting that the militants belonged to Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad group, which has been active in Kashmir for over a decade.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

Rights violations

Indian authorities banned a number of social media websites in Kashmir after video clips showing troops committing grave human rights violations went viral on the Internet. One such video that showed a Kashmiri protester tied to an Indian army jeep - apparently as a human shield - generated outrage on social media.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

Demilitarization of Kashmir

Those in favor of an independent Kashmir want Pakistan and India to step aside and let the Kashmiri people decide their future. "It is time India and Pakistan announce the timetable for withdrawal of their forces from the portions they control and hold an internationally supervised referendum," Toqeer Gilani, the president of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front in Pakistani Kashmir, told DW.

India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price

No chance for secession

But most Kashmir observers don't see it happening in the near future. They say that while the Indian strategy to deal strictly with militants and separatists in Kashmir has partly worked out, sooner or later New Delhi will have to find a political solution to the crisis. Secession, they say, does not stand a chance.

Roads blocked, communications shut off

Security was tightened for the ceremony, which took place during one of the lowest points in relations between the two nuclear foes in recent years.

Last month, a suicide bomb attack claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group killed 40 Indian paramilitary police in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir. In retaliation, the Indian air force launched an airstrike inside Pakistan, saying it was targeting militants who carried out the attack.

The next day, Pakistani warplanes engaged in a dogfight with Indian aircraft over Kashmir in their first airborne clash since their last war in 1971. Pakistan then shot down two Indian air force planes. One pilot was captured and later released as a peace gesture. India says it lost only one plane.

Pakistan's military showed of its long-range ballistic Shaheen II missile, among others

Speaking at Saturday's ceremony, Pakistani President Arif Alvi insisted that India had been irresponsible for blaming Pakistan for the suicide attack without evidence.

Pakistan 'wants peace'

But in an apparent easing of tensions, Alvi insisted that Pakistan wanted peace with its neighbor and that the country's war was against hunger, poverty and unemployment. "Let's end the hatred and sow the seeds of peace in this region for the prosperity of the people," he said.

Read more: Nuclear fears abound after India-Pakistan military escalation

Related Subjects

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his "greetings" and "best wishes" to the Pakistani people ahead of Saturday's celebrations.

The dispute over Kashmir sparked the first two of three wars between India and Pakistan after both countries became independent of the British Empire in 1947. They fought the second in 1965, and a third, largely over what become modern-day Bangladesh, in 1971.

Militant groups have waged an insurgency in Kashmir against Indian rule for 30 years. Many want independence or a merger with Pakistan.

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04:34 mins.
DW News | 12.03.2019

Kashmir conflict fuels militant extremism

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