ISLAMABAD - A think-tank on Thursday warned that dangerous escalation by Pakistan and India amidst an uprising in occupied Kashmir could enhance the chances of a full-scale military confrontation between the two countries, undermining regional peace, security and strategic stability.

The assessment was issued at the end of a roundtable titled “Kashmir Conflict and Regional Security in South Asia”, organised by the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI).

The event was attended by retired diplomats, military officials, academicians, Kashmiri activists, and representatives of Islamabad-based think tanks.

“India, alongside brutal repression in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, has sharply intensified ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary in a bid to create an impression that the situation in Kashmir was Pakistan's creation. Additionally, Pakistan is being threatened with punitive action,” the think-tank noted.

According to the think tank, India committed 389 ceasefire violations since last summer, when the latest phase of the uprising in the Valley started, in which over 60 people, both civilian and military, have been killed because of Indian shelling on the Pakistani side.

SVI President Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said that the situation becomes particularly worrisome when seen in the context of confirmation of existence of Cold Start Doctrine by Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat and Delhi’s massive conventional arms build-up, rapidly growing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles arsenal, and expanding ballistic missile defence capacities, backed by manifold budgetary increase for military preparation.

“The situation is too dangerous and risky …, it carries dangerous portents for peace, regional security and strategic stability.” The discussion revolved around the options available to Pakistan for morally, politically and diplomatically supporting the uprising in occupied Kashmir.

President Islamabad Policy Research Institute Sohail Amin observed that Pakistan had exhausted every option to find a solution to the Kashmir problem, but only got belligerence in return from India. He regretted that world’s business interests in India prevented it from speaking up against the brutalities being committed by the Indian security forces in the occupied Valley.

Almost 173 Kashmiris have been killed and another over 19000 have been injured in the crackdown by the security forces against unarmed civilians protesting against excesses by Indian forces. Some 1240 partially or fully lost their eyesight due to the use of pellet guns by Indian soldiers.

Former Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar said that India was extremely inflexible on Kashmir issue. “We are in a complex and difficult situation. Dealing with India has been a very frustrating experience for Pakistan,” he said. Khokhar regretted that most Pakistani political leaders either have not been sincere with the Kashmir cause or lack clarity on the way forward.

Former ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi was of the opinion that Pakistan’s foreign policy has been a series of short-term course of actions that did not add to each other. Kashmir, he said, was a long-term problem requiring a permanent solution.

He recommended that Pakistan should improve its image for increasing its options and winning the respect of the world. Moreover, he stressed that Kashmiri freedom fighters and Pakistan need to be on the same page.

Former defence secretary Naeem Khalid Lodhi called for developing synergy between the movement in the occupied Kashmir and Pakistani moves in support of the uprising.

Kashmiri Activist Mushaal Hussein Mullick, who is also the spouse of Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik, said China-Pakistan Economic Corridor offered an opportunity for resolving Kashmir issue.

“Once the world’s economic interest develops in Pakistan, India would come under pressure to resolve the Kashmir issue,” she said citing the example of the passionate debate in UK’s House of Commons on the situation in Kashmir saying it had been motivated by Britain’s interest in the CPEC.

Kashmiris, she said, expected Pakistan to have “a fixed state policy” on Kashmir. “Ad hoc policies should be shunned. Chinese would ultimately have to look at the issue, but a lot would depend on how Pakistan moves on it,” Mullick said urging mobilisation at the grass root level for the Kashmir issue.

Separately, Chairman Observer Research Foundation, India Sudheendra Kulkarni said that participation of India in the CPEC project could usher in a new era of prosperity and change in the face of South Asia.   He shared these views at a panel discussion on Pakistan-India peace process and sharing of experiences on governance and democracy hosted by PILDAT.

Kulkarni was joined by Senator Mushahid Hussain, Riaz Hussain Khokhar anchor Saleem Safi and discussed the current state of Pakistan-India ties and options for future cooperation.

Kulkarni spoke of the CPEC as an economic miracle, the one whose dividends would multiply if India were also to participate in the venture. Infrastructure connecting the CPEC to the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Project across Northern India could transform the face of the region and usher in a new era of economic cooperation, he said.

However, he said that China and Pakistan needed to address Indian concern on the CPEC project before this could happen.

“On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the 1947 partition, both countries needed to renew efforts to normalise bilateral ties and evaluate their positions by putting themselves in the other country’s shoes,” he said.

In the context of Kashmir, while India had focused on the issue of terrorism, Pakistan had always stressed upon Kashmir as a political issue.

He impressed upon the audience the importance of thinking anew about the problems that had strained Pakistan-India ties in the past, saying that good statesmanship in both countries would depend upon the ability to set aside older grudges.

Senator Hussain spoke about how the idea of a multilateral cooperative framework or a confederation was a pipe dream: Pakistan and India needed to engage on a bilateral level before any regional endeavour could be attempted.

He also proposed that both nations needed to open the doors for back-channel diplomacy.  He said that the people of Kashmir had spoken: the uprising after July 2016 was, in fact, a de facto plebiscite.

He stressed on taking forward the recommendations of the report prepared by the commission led by Yashwant Sinha, Former Minster of External Affairs, India, on Kashmir for a meaning framework for the process of peace building between both countries.    Khokhar pointed out that the distrust between Pakistan and India currently was at an all time high. Any sort of regional cooperation attempted with India could not meet the same fate as the SAARC conferences, in which the largest member country had neutralised the multi-lateral forum by boycotting its proceedings.

Khokhar agreed with Kulkarni on the fact that there was a need for forward thinking, however, it could not be at the cost of ignoring ground realities in Kashmir or on the diplomatic front.

Safi said that Pakistan had already taken a step forward diplomatically by engaging India in the Heart of Asia Conferences and other smaller conferences.