Conflict Trends Update


Fighting escalated between government security forces and a Hazara militia in Wardak province after a helicopter carrying special forces troops was shot down on 18 March by what appeared to have been advanced weaponry, killing at least ten government soldiers. Crisis Group expert Andrew Watkins says the government blames the militia and has dispatched reinforcements in Wardak, targeting areas controlled by the group. The clashes could exacerbate ethnic tensions and highlight the government’s lack of a monopoly of authority during a delicate period of peace efforts.


Following the February agreement in which New Delhi and Islamabad committed to observing the 2003 ceasefire along Kashmir’s Line of Control (LoC), both sides took additional steps toward thawing frosty relations. Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Javed Baja called for a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir dispute, while officials from both countries held their first talks in three years on Indus River water rights. Crisis Group expert Laurel Miller says tensions appear to be easing, and could lead to some tentative steps by India and Pakistan toward normalising relations. But unless India ends its heavy-handed counter-insurgency approach in Jammu and Kashmir, and Pakistan ceases all support to anti-India jihadist groups, the normalisation process will be an uphill struggle.