GCN Security Brief: Mess in Middle-East and 100 days in Kashmir
Tipping point: The Middle-East
The situation in the already incredibly volatile Middle-East got more complicated this past week. Please refer to the included map of the region to fully understand the gravity of the situation. On Thursday, the US entered into a war being fought by its ally Saudi Arabia and Yemen. It did this by firing tomahawk missiles from the USS missile into the Iranian- back Houti rebel territory in Yemen. This was apparently in response to previous attacks and attempted attacks on US ships in the Red Sea. Among the atrocities being committed by the Saudi in Yemen include 4000 people who have been killed in Saudi air-strikes since they began in March 2015. Meanwhile, Iran has deployed warships off the coast of Yemen.
Simultaneously, Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga have initiated a final push to reclaim Mosul (Iraq’s second biggest city) which they lost to IS forces in June 2014. A lot of planning has gone into this particular offensive as the army has mobilized 30,000 troops, and the Kurds have 4,000. All to fight an estimated 4000 IS militants who are holding Mosul. They are aided by air-strikes from US-led forces. Besides being oil-rich, reclaiming Mosul will be a symbolic victory because it is here that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a “caliphate’ in Iraq and Syria.
IS suffered another blow when Syria rebel troops announced that they had ousted them from Dabiq, a town of importance to IS because it appears in its propaganda. A high-level meeting of Foreign Secretaries being held in London to address the Syrian conflict is underway. The major focus is the use of economic sanctions against Russia and Syria if the bombings in Aleppo continue.
The common thread in all these conflicts is the persistent presence of allied countries in these conflicts, primarily Russia and the U.S. Last week, we elaborated on how the region has become the site for a face-off between the US and Russia.
With conflicts on so many fronts becoming more and more entrenched we could be heading in the direction of another great war between two historic rivals.
Kashmir: Marking 100 days of the Conflict
This week marked the hundredth day of the conflict ravaging the Kashmir region which started on July 8 with the shooting of Burhan Wani, a popular young commander of the Hizbul- Mujahideen by Indian Security Forces. Estimated causalities of the conflict included 90 dead, and 13,000 injured (1000 completely blinded because of the use of pellet guns by Indian Forces. Local business have reported severe losses and freedom of the press has been jeopardized.
Wani’s death has been politicized by both India and Pakistan in a standard rhetoric of terming him either as a martyr (by Pakistan) or a terrorist (by India) on major international forums including the UN General Assembly last week. The concrete outcome of his death, however, has been the increase in the number of young people who have been radicalised which could lead to a rise of encounters in the coming months and years.
Close to 50% of the country’s population is under the age of 21. The youth faces numerous challenges including unemployment, lack of adequate educational facilities and extreme poverty. Nefarious religious- based and anti-state bodies active in the country find a young pool of impressionable recruits among this large population of Indians. This is a threat not only in Kashmir but around the country. With inter-religious tensions being a defining point in any analysis of India, this is becoming a worrying factor.
Debates on how to resolve the current Kashmir conflict and the situation as a whole rage on. Most groups agree that “dialogue” is the best response. However, the past few weeks have been studded with cross-border attacks, cancellation of meetings of multilateral organizations (SAARC) and continuing rhetoric in the international arena.
The best strategy would be to focus more on long-term steps like ensuring adequate education and employment for young people, a dedication to ensuring equality before law, and a sustainable development model for the country. A population of more than 500 million (1.5 times the size of the US population) can be a major boon or a major threat in the near future. Steps have to be taken to make sure it is not the latter.
An interesting piece on the devolution of US- Russia relations is here.