Indian military admits wrongdoing in three Kashmir killings

Indian army soldiers stand guard while they wait for a fellow soldier shopping during lockdown in Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir, on March 31, 2020. (AP/File)
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Updated 18 September 2020

Indian military admits wrongdoing in three Kashmir killings

  • Indian soldiers had previously claimed they had killed ‘unidentified Pakistani terrorists’ in Shopian
  • India has rejected every request since 1989 to prosecute Indian soldiers in civilian courts in Kashmir for alleged rights abuses

SRINAGAR: In a rare admission of wrongdoing, the Indian military on Friday said its soldiers in Kashmir exceeded their legal powers in the killings of three local men it had described as Pakistani terrorists.
Col. Rajesh Kalia, an Indian army spokesman, said police are investigating whether the men were actually involved in militancy. He said the victims have now been identified as residents of Rajouri district whose families had filed a complaint accusing soldiers of killing them in a staged gunbattle.
On July 18, the Indian army said its soldiers killed three “unidentified Pakistani terrorists” in the southern Shopian area. About a month later, three Kashmiri families in Rajouri identified the victims as their missing relatives using photographs of the bodies that circulated on social media, and filed a complaint with police.
Police ordered an investigation, and the results have not yet been released.
“Their DNA report is awaited. Their involvement with terrorism or related activities is under investigation by the police,” Kalia said in a statement, without explaining how the military had identified the three men.
Kalia said an army investigation showed the soldiers had exceeded the powers granted to them under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
The act gives the Indian military in Kashmir sweeping powers to search, seize and even shoot suspects on sight without fear of prosecution. Under the act, local authorities need federal approval to prosecute erring army or paramilitary soldiers in civilian courts. The special powers were given to the military in 1990, a year after an armed rebellion erupted in Kashmir seeking the Himalayan region’s independence or merger with neighboring Pakistan, which also controls part of Kashmir.
“Consequently, the competent disciplinary authority has directed to initiate disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act against those found prima facie answerable,” Kalia said. “Indian Army is committed to ethical conduct of operations.”
Police, which usually participate in counterinsurgency operations, said the July 18 encounter was a solo operation by the army. The police later buried the bodies in a remote cemetery.
The families of the young men — cousins aged 18, 21 and 25 — said they went to Shopian to work as laborers and were last heard from on July 17.
India has long relied on military force to retain control over the portion of Kashmir it administers and has fought two wars over the territory with Pakistan, which also claims the mountain region as its own.
The rebel uprising against Indian control and subsequent Indian crackdown have killed tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces.
Hundreds of thousands of Indian troops are stationed in the region and maintain checkpoints throughout Indian-controlled territory.
The results of the police probe are likely to spark an outcry among Kashmiri activists who for years have accused Indian troops of abusing their powers and repeatedly targeting civilians.
In 2000, the Indian army killed five men it alleged were militants responsible for the massacre of 35 Sikhs in Kashmir. An investigation later found the five were local villagers killed in a faked firefight.
In 2010, a massive uprising erupted in Kashmir after a police investigation found Indian soldiers had killed three civilians in a staged gunbattle and then said the victims were militants in order to claim a reward for killing them. The army responded by suspending two officers.
India has rejected every request since 1989 to prosecute Indian soldiers in civilian courts in Kashmir for alleged rights abuses including murder and rape, according to official documents.


Britain pledges $227 million annual civilian and food aid to Afghanistan

Updated 24 November 2020

Britain pledges $227 million annual civilian and food aid to Afghanistan

  • Afghanistan is at risk of receiving between 15 percent and 20 percent less funding than it received at the previous donor conference four years ago

GENEVA: Britain said it will pledge $227 million in annual civilian and food aid for Afghanistan at a conference on Tuesday in Geneva where officials from about 70 countries and humanitarian organizations will pledge billions of dollars for the war-torn nation.
Dependent on foreign aid, Afghanistan is at risk of receiving between 15 percent and 20 percent less funding than it received at the previous donor conference four years ago, diplomats say, as governments are under intense pressure to make savings as they ramp up spending to help their own economies recover from impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Withholding funds at this point, diplomats say, could at least provide foreign governments with some leverage to inject a greater sense of urgency into peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives that began in Qatar in September.
Britain, a country with a long and difficult history of involvement in Afghanistan, is the country’s third largest bilateral donor, and the amount being pledged in Geneva will be slightly higher than it pledged at the last donor conference in Brussels four years ago.
The statement issued by the UK Mission to the United Nations and World Trade Organization in Geneva said $207 million would be pledged to support peace and stability in Afghanistan and “improve access to education and vital infrastructure.”
Britain would “also announce an extra $20 million to the United Nations’ World Food Programme” for Afghanistan.
The latest monetary commitment is separate from the $93.32 million security pledge for Afghan forces for 2021, which Britain announced last month.
In Brussels in 2016, Britain had pledged a total of $1 billion for four years, which translated into 187.5 million pounds annually.
At the Brussels conference, Afghanistan obtained total pledges of $15.2 billion for 2017 to 2020, equivalent to $3.8 billion a year.