Scenic Kashmir at the heart of India-Pakistani animosity

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Snow-covered mountains are reflected in Dal Lake in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir. (AFP)
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A Kashmiri boatman rows his boat through the waters of Dal Lake during the early morning in Srinagar. (Reuters)
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Kashmiri vegetable vendors assemble at a floating market in the interiors of the Dal Lake in Srinagar. (Reuters)
Updated 18 September 2019

Scenic Kashmir at the heart of India-Pakistani animosity

  • Pakistan says a UN-mandated referendum should take place to settle the dispute over the region
  • Kashmir is with an area of 222,236 square km (85,783 sq miles), it is almost as big as Britain

The Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir has been at the heart of more than 70 years of animosity since the partition of the British colony of India into the separate countries of Muslim Pakistan and majority Hindu India.
Here are some facts about the region:

India rules the populous Kashmir Valley and the Hindu-dominated region around Jammu city, Pakistan administered a wedge of territory in the west, and China holds a thinly populated high-altitude area in the north.

India and Pakistan have been fighting over Kashmir since 1947 when they gained independence from Britain. At the time of the partition, Kashmir was expected to become part of Pakistan, like other Muslim-majority regions.
However, its Hindu ruler wanted to stay independent and following an invasion by Muslim tribesmen from Pakistan, he hastily acceded to India in return for help against the invaders, sparking a war.

Since the war sparked by the partition, India and Pakistan have fought two other wars. One, in 1965, was again sparked by their dispute over Kashmir. A third, in 1971, largely over what become Bangladesh.

A UN-monitored cease-fire line agreed in 1949 and formalized into a Line of Control (LOC) in 1972 splits Kashmir into two areas — one administered by India, one by Pakistan.
Their armies face off over the LOC. In 1999, the two countries fought along the LOC in what some analysts called an undeclared war. Their forces exchanged regular gunfire until a truce in late 2003, which largely held for years. Clashes have become more frequent in recent years.

Many Muslims in Indian Kashmir have long resented what they see as heavy-handed New Delhi rule. In 1989, an insurgency by Islamist militants began. Some fought to join Pakistan, some called for independence for Kashmir.
India responded by pouring troops into the region. India also accused Pakistan of backing the separatists, in particular by arming and training fighters in its part of Kashmir and sending them into Indian Kashmir. Pakistan denies that, saying it only offers political support to the Kashmiri people.

New Delhi claims the whole of Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India because the Hindu maharaja agreed to join India in October 1947.
Until very recently, India governed its part of Kashmir as the northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir. It had special status, enshrined in the constitution, allowing it to make its own laws. But on Aug. 5, India scrapped that status, splitting the state into the two directly administered territories, one formed by Jammu and Kashmir, and the other consisting of the Buddhist-dominated enclave of Ladakh.

Consists of the smaller Azad Kashmir, or Free Kashmir. Regions to the north, known as the Northern Areas, or Gilgit-Baltistan, which Pakistan administers separately, also formed part of the state before independence. Pakistan says a UN-mandated referendum should take place to settle the dispute over the region, believing the majority of Kashmiris would opt to join Pakistan.

Controls a third section, the remote Aksai Chin plateau, historically part of Ladakh. India fought a border war over Aksai Chin with China in 1962, after China occupied a 38,000 square km (14,000 square miles) chunk of territory.

Parts of Kashmir are strikingly beautiful with forest-clad mountains, rivers running through lush valleys and lakes ringed by willow trees. The western Himalayan region is bounded by Pakistan to the west, Afghanistan to the northwest, China to the northeast, and India to the south.

Twelve and half million in India’s Jammu and Kashmir and more than 3 million in Pakistani Kashmir. About 70 percent are Muslims and the rest Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists.

With an area of 222,236 square km (85,783 sq miles), it is almost as big as Britain. India controls 45 percent, in the south and east, Pakistan about a third in the north and west, and China the rest.

About 80 percent agriculture-based. Crops include rice, maize, apples, saffron. The area is also known for handicrafts such as carpets, woodcarving, woolens, and silk. Tourism, once flourishing, has been badly hit by the conflict. 

Saudi, UAE offer Pakistan access to their labor market databases

Updated 19 October 2019

Saudi, UAE offer Pakistan access to their labor market databases

  • The move is aimed to boost the export of the Pakistani workforce to the two Gulf countries
  • The initiative will reduce fraud and exploitation of workers by middle-men

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have offered to open up their digital labor databases to Pakistan to boost the export of labor from Pakistan to both Gulf countries, Syed Zulifqar Abbas Bukhari, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistan and Human Resource Development, told Arab News from Dubai.
The offer was extended by UAE Minister of Human Resources and Emiratization (MOHRE), Nasser Bin Thani Al Hameli, during a meeting with Bukhari on the sidelines of the 5th ministerial session of Abu Dubai Dialogue held in Dubai last week.
“UAE offered linkage to its ‘virtual labor market database’, and Saudi Arabia has also extended an offer to Pakistan to send domestic workers to the Kingdom through new identity of the electronic home labor program, ‘Musaned,’” Bukhari said and added that the process would be complete in the next three months.
“Pakistan welcomed this, as this would help us in reducing unemployed Pakistanis in both the countries,” he said.
The initiative looks to provide Pakistan with up-to-date information about job opportunities in the labor market in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and gives valuable information regarding demand for different skills overseas.
Bukhari said the Saudi database also included new and other services developed to preserve the rights of the employer and the worker.
“Pakistan has agreed to connect this with its own digital portal,” he added.
Over 2.7 million Pakistanis live in Saudi Arabia and remit nearly $6 billion home every year. Additionally,1.6 million Pakistanis live in the UAE and are the second largest national group there, constituting 12.5% of the country’s total population.
“Pakistan wants to integrate its digital platform with UAE MOHRE to minimize the cost of recruitment and to make it fair, efficient, transparent, as Pakistan is digitally ready for this collaboration,” Bukhari said.
General Secretary of Pakistan Workers Foundation, Zahoor Awan, welcomed the move, saying it would result in “direct access” between workers and employers.
“Digitalization will help workers find jobs as employers will have direct access to them,” Awan told Arab News, and said the database would reduce the exploitation of workers by middle-men.
“The agents used to loot workers through tall claims about jobs in UAE but this step will lessen their troubles. The technology will provide digital information to employers about their availability and skills. They will contact them directly which will reduce fraud and exploitation,” he said.