India Declares Ramadan Truce in Kashmir for First Time in 18 Years

A Kashmiri protester shouts freedom slogans amid tear gas smoke fired by Indian paramilitary soldier near the site of a gun battle in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Saturday, May 5, 2018. Fierce clashes erupted when residents in solidarity with the rebels tried to march to the gunbattle site. A vehicle …
AP Photo/Dar Yasin

The Indian government for the first time in 18 years has pledged to stop military operations against pro-Pakistan militants in New Delhi-controlled Kashmir during Ramadan, the holiest month for Muslims, expected to start Thursday.

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), a Pakistan-based terrorist group known to carry out attacks in Muslim-majority Kashmir, dismissed the truce as a “sin” and vowed to continue with its terrorist operations during the holy month as it has in previous years, India’s Ahmedabad Mirror news outlet reported.

During Ramadan, most Muslims abide by the holy month’s fasting tradition—abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking, having sex, and other physical needs each day, starting from before the break of dawn until sunset.

Still, some militants believe that it is heroic to engage in jihad and be martyred during Ramadan believing God especially rewards those acts attacks, a position that triggers a spike in terror activities.

The Times of India (TOI) noted that India’s ceasefire is conditional, adding that New Delhi has warned that Indian “security forces reserve right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people.”

TOI cited a statement from the New Delhi-based administration of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as indicating:

It is important to isolate the forces that bring a bad name to Islam by resorting to mindless violence and terror … [the Indian] government expects everyone to cooperate in this initiative and help the Muslim brothers and sisters to observe Ramzan [or Ramadan] peacefully and without any difficulties.

New Delhi has ordered the Indian security forces not launch operations in Kashmir during the next 30 days, starting Thursday.

The New York Times (NYT) reported:

The Indian government said it would halt operations against separatist militants in Jammu and Kashmir State during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on Thursday. It was the first time in 18 years that the Indian government declared a cease-fire for Ramadan in the territory.

Over the last year, Kashmir has been sliding deeper into turmoil, with dozens of militants killed, huge protests erupting and a heavy sense of despair settling over the disputed territory. Many Kashmiris expressed hope on Thursday that the letup in security operations would calm tensions and reinvigorate efforts to find peace.

Despite the 2003 overall ceasefire between India and Pakistan, Kashmir has descended into chaos in the last few years.

The two nuclear-armed rivals, Pakistan and India, regularly clash along the Line of Control (LoC), the boundary the separates the Kashmir regions controlled by each country.

China, its ally Pakistan, and their mutual rival India all have competing claims to the Himalayan region of Kashmir, home to various jihadist groups like al-Qaeda, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), as well as Pakistan-affiliated LET, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, among others.

While India accuses Pakistan of backing Islamic terrorists in Kashmir, Islamabad blames New Delhi for violently oppressing pro-Pakistan separatists.

The Times noted:

Kashmir, a Himalayan mountain valley known for spectacular beauty, has been submerged in bloody conflicts for more than 70 years. Both India and Pakistan claim it, and the battles over this area have killed tens of thousands of people.

Complicating the dispute is religion: Kashmir is predominantly Muslim and most of the Kashmir Valley is controlled by India, which is majority Hindu. Pakistan is predominantly Muslim and has historically supported Kashmir’s separatists against Indian forces.

Citing the Indian security officials, NYT notes that New Delhi has killed “more than 70 militants,” likely linked to Pakistan, so far this year alone.

With 3,343 casualties (1,639 deaths; 1,704 injuries), last year’s Ramadan marked one of the bloodiest holy months in recent history. Last year, there were several terrorist attacks in Kashmir during the holy month, including some carried out by LET.

While China has mostly stayed in the shadows of deadly tensions in Kashmir between regional enemies Pakistan and India, Beijing is known to provide Islamabad with economic and military support.

The last time New Delhi declared a unilateral truce during Ramadan in Kashmir was in 2000, the Times reveals.