Our friends in Kashmir like to boast that the region is India’s answer to Switzerland, with snowy mountain peaks and beautiful lakes attracting tourists from around the world.
However, that picture of tranquillity has been something of a mirage for much of Kashmir’s recent past. Political tension and sectarian violence have blighted the region for decades, the outworking of a fraught dispute over the region’s administration. Some are keen to remain part of India, others favour Pakistan, and there are those who would have the region become independent too.
In the most recent incident, in mid–February, a bomber used a vehicle packed with explosives to attack buses transporting Indian forces along the Srinagar–Jammu highway. 46 paramilitary police were killed in the attack, for which the Islamic militant group Jaish–e–Mohammed has claimed responsibility. This was the deadliest attack on Indian forces in the region for a number of decades.
Adamant that Pakistani influence was behind the attack, India has said it will take all possible diplomatic steps to completely isolate Pakistan from the international community, raising the terrorist threat before the UN security council. Whether it has enough sway to bring this about remains to be seen, especially with China’s increasingly close ties to Pakistan, but the intent is clear.
Pakistan, meanwhile, denies any wrongdoing, with Prime Minister Imran Khan calling for discussions, and threatening to retaliate should India respond to the incident with force.
This year’s Indian general election, to be held between April and May, could prove to be pivotal moment in the direction of Kashmir. The current government has done little to bring about peace in the region, despite coming to power amid an eleven–year ceasefire. Last year, Prime Minister Modi’s government pulled out of a coalition with the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party due to concerns about terrorism and radicalisation, adding more fuel to the sectarian fire.
- 875 million people are eligible to vote
- There will be 1 million polling stations across the country
- 464 parties were represented at the last general election in 2014
How to pray
- Pray for the friends and family of those killed or injured in last week’s attack
- Pray for this year’s election to go smoothly and pave the way for a more stable future for Kashmir
- Pray also that the election would lead to a reduction in Hindu nationalism and violence against Christians and other minorities
- Pray for successful action to clamp down on insurgency and terrorism in Kashmir
- Pray for believers in the region (including our partners there) to be peacemakers, holding out the light of life even in the face of hostility