Security Bulletin

GCN Security Brief: Crisis in Kashmir and A Tale of Two Referendums

Lead Story: Crisis in Kashmir

kashmir-indian-armyTension between India and Pakistan are high again. The long-standing conflict which started in 1947 started heating up again following the September 19th attack on an Indian Military base in Uri; along the Line of Control that divides India and Pakistan. The attack which saw 18 Indian soldiers slain was the worst attack in the past decade.

September 29th saw a retaliation by the Indian troops in the form of “surgical strikes” administered inside Pakistan occupied Kashmir.  However, Pakistan claims that these strikes never happened. Fire was exchanged this weekend with one death being reported by Indian forces. Families along the border have begun to leave in fear of escalation of this conflict.

Even if you are a casual acquaintance with global affairs you will know how serious the Kashmir issue is. This is a conflict which is a hangover of Partition politics and colonial incompetence. It appears that diplomatic options are being compromised for military ones. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who made a spontaneous visit to Pakistan early in his term is now resorting to surgical strikes. But in a masterstroke, India was able to push its weight in the region to get Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to join in boycotting the SAARC summit which would have been held in Nepal later this month. This is a clear indicator that in the region, India is still seen as the heavy-weight; definitely, the one you want on your side.

This conflict is made more serious by the presence of nuclear weapons on both sides (110 with India and 120 with Pakistan). However, it does not seem likely it will escalate to the point where they will need to be used. In essence, the presence of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) still holds good. A more serious threat would be for India to withdraw from the Indus Water Treaty which could have catastrophic consequences for the already water-starved Pakistan.

At the moment the situation is serious. The two nations have gone to war over Kashmir three times already. Let us hope it does not come to that point again.

Lead Story: A Tale of Two Referendums

There were two historic referendums that took place this week. The first in Columbia where voters ever-so-slightly (50.2% – 49.8%) asserted that they did not support the peace agreement between the government and Farc guerrillas. Ironically, the peace agreement fell apart on World Peace Day (for Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday). The agreement which took four years of negotiations was signed by Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos and Farc leader Timoleon Jimenez. The opposition was led by former president Alvaro Uribe who made the argument that the peace treaty would allow the rebels to go unpunished for the 52-year struggle.

The second referendum took place in Hungary. At 98%, the results overwhelming rejected the EUs migration plan of re- positioning 160,000 immigrants across the EU bloc. This is an impressive step by President Viktor Orban whose aspirations and ambitions are growing beyond Hungary. He invested significant political and financial capital in taking this vote to the people. Other EU countries are just ignoring the quotas assigned to them. The results of this referendum, however, may be deemed invalid because the turnout (at 43%) fell below the minimum required 50%.

What these two separate events show is a significant rise of populism in global affairs. In a similar fashion as Brexit, populist leaders in both cases have leveraged mass anger at the current situation. With these two results along with the Brexit result, we may see referendums being used more often. This could in many cases seriously challenge the very fabric of democracy.

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