China/India/Pakistan: De-escalate tensions along border lines and seek peaceful resolution of disputes

23/06/2020
Press release

Delhi, Lahore, Paris, 23 June 2020: FIDH and its member organizations in India and Pakistan, the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), and People’s Watch, express their deep concern over the recent escalation in tensions between India and China and call on the governments of both countries to de-escalate military operations, including infrastructure build-up, ensure a peaceful settlement of all territorial claims, and resume high-level political and diplomatic dialogue to ease the tensions.

The recent clashes in the Galwan River Valley, which lies along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) demarcating the de-facto border between the Indian-administered region of Ladakh Union Territory and the Chinese-administered region of Aksai Chin, mark the first incidents in 45 years where fatalities have been reported.

After tensions began escalating in May, Indian and Chinese troops clashed on 15 June 2020, resulting in the deaths of at least 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of casualties on the Chinese side. Ten Indian soldiers were also captured by Chinese troops and subsequently released on 19 June. Meanwhile, journalists and other observers who have tried to access the region to report on the situation have thus far been denied access.

“A course of action that moves towards de-escalation must be prioritized by all parties involved, to avoid further de-stabilizing and militarizing the broader region, which could impact civilians whose rights have been already been curtailed and under attack for decades. It is high time for the governments of China, India, and Pakistan to emphasize dialogue above any other actions, in order to ensure that the safety, security, and the rights of all, particularly the people of Jammu & Kashmir, are upheld and protected.”

Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Secretary-General

Although there have been sporadic tensions and eruptions of conflict since 1948 over the disputed territory of Jammu & Kashmir, different parts of which are under Indian, Chinese, and Pakistani control, these clashes are the first to have resulted in loss of life along the LAC since 1975.

Clashes between Indian and Pakistan armed forced across the Line of Control (LoC) have also intensified recently, resulting in both military and civilian casualties. At least 12 people have been killed and 102 injured in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and 14 have been killed in Indian-administered Kashmir as a result of artillery fire by Pakistani and Indian armed forces across the LoC since the beginning of the year. At least four civilians were reportedly killed as recently as 17 June 2020 as a result of artillery fire inside Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

“The recent escalation of tension resulting in border clashes between China and India threatens to further deteriorate the already volatile situation between Pakistan and India along the Line of Control in disputed and divided Jammu & Kashmir. A permanent solution should be sought through sustained dialogue, with the rights and aspirations of the Kashmiri people kept front and center. In the meantime, the safety and security of the civilian population on both sides of the Line of Control must be ensured by both India and Pakistan.”

Dr. Mehdi Hasan, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)

FIDH, APDP, HRCP, and People’s Watch call for an immediate cessation of all hostilities and for access to be granted to independent observers and the media to monitor the situation.

Background

The LAC is a de-facto border between China and India based on a ceasefire agreement drawn up in 1962 after a brief war, although the two countries do not agree on where exactly the line is. Both Ladakh and Aksai Chin are subdivisions of the disputed region of Jammu & Kashmir. The LoC, also disputed, separates the Indian-administered Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir from the Pakistani-administered regions of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.

On 5 August 2019, the Indian government unilaterally revoked the autonomous status of Indian-administered Jammu & Kashmir, dividing the former state into the two Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, which are now directly controlled by the central government in Delhi.

Human rights violations have been documented in both Indian-administered and Pakistan-administered Kashmir for decades, including in two landmark UN reports in 2018 and 2019. In Indian-administered Kashmir, more than 70,000 people have been killed, and more than 8,000 have been subjected to enforced disappearance from 1990 to 2019. In addition, several thousand have been arrested and detained under repressive laws, while torture and other violence have been routinely used by Indian security forces against protesters and detainees since the 1990s. In Pakistan-administered Kashmir, reports of human rights violations, including unlawful restrictions on freedom of expression and association, extensive detentions, and misuse of anti-terrorism legislation against protesters, continue to abound.

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