Violations of cease-fire in Kashmir soar
Growing tensions between India and Pakistan are being reflected in a sharp increase in cease-fire violations in Kashmir. The number of firing incidents along the UN-supervised cease-fire line is at a seven-year high. They spurted dramatically in July after months of relative quiet. Then after a September slowdown, they soared once again in October: More than 30 violations were reported over a 16-hour period; they included one major firefight.
The United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan declined to discuss the numbers of incidents along the line of control but confirmed ''new tops'' in reported incidents in July, August, and October.
Analysts here consider the numbers of violations less significant than their trends up or down. The recent upsurge, they note, parallels a bitter verbal barrage between the two countries over US plans to provide F-16 fighter-bombers and $3.2 billion in military credits and economic aid to Pakistan.
A regional arms race is again in full tilt. Each country believes it will be the target of the other's new weaponry. Should war break out again, Kashmir is almost sure to be at the center of the fighting.
Kashmir has been a battleground in all three Indo-Pakistani wars since the two countries were partitioned from Great Britain's subcontinental empire in 1947. Their 1947 and 1965 clashes directly focused on control of the disputed northern territory.
Since 1947 Pakistan has held about one-third of the old princely state, calling its side ''Azad Kashmir'' (''free Kashmir'') while India styles it ''Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The UN observers decline to disclose the number of troops arrayed on either side. But observers unrelated to the UN mission have estimated 100,000 troops on each side of the line, known as the line of control since the Indo-Pakistani agreement signed in Simla, India, in 1972 and roughly the same as the original 1949 cease-fire line.
But the dramatic increase in incidents reported to the UN observer team has also sparked another verbal cross-fire between Pakistan and India. Pakistani officials blame India for the shooting incidents, and India dismisses the Pakistan-based reports as propaganda.
One major complication is that only Pakistan reports violations to the 36 -member UN team scattered at field stations on both sides of the line of control. Another problem is that Pakistan allows the UN observers access to troops and outposts along the line of control; but for the past 10 years, India has not allowed such access, restricting the observers to their own UN field stations.
India does not report violations to the UN team because it says incidents should be discussed and resolved bilaterally. By Pakistan's reckoning, India is thereby trying to force recognition of the line of control as an international border. Pakistan strongly opposes this stance. ''We are not in its favor and will never allow this to happen,'' President Zia told Pakistani newsmen last week.
''We are not in the business of apportioning blame,'' says Brig. Gen. Stig Waldenstrom, the Swede who heads the team. ''What is our role? We are looking after the peace on the line of control.''
Now in its 33rd year, the team in India and Pakistan is beaten for longevity among the five UN peacekeeping missions now in existence only by Jerusalem's UN observer group. Remarkably, none of the 2,000 UN observers who have served in Kashmir over the years has been wounded or killed in hostile exchanges.
Some Indian press accounts say that India would, indeed, like the UN observer mission to move out of Kashmir. But it is hesitant to make a move, according to the Calcutta daily Amrita Bazar Patrika, because a closedown would require fresh discussions on Kashmir with United Nations headquarters, as well as Pakistan's concurrence-an unlikely event.