The northern Indian states of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir(1) have been the sites of perhaps the most bitter and bloody armed struggles in that nation's post-independence history. Conflict erupted in Punjab in the early 1980s when armed Sikh opposition groups launched a violent campaign for a separate state. Armed activity has subsided considerably since a brutal crackdown by government forces which began in 1992. Kashmiri opposition groups took up arms on a wide-scale basis in 1989-90, fighting either for an independent state or accession to Pakistan.
In both Punjab and Kashmir, as arms flows and armed struggle increased, respect for human rights by all parties deteriorated.(2) In this report, the Human Rights Watch Arms Project focuses on the human rights impact of the diffusion of sophisticated light weapons and small arms to Sikh and Kashmiri insurgents, commonly referred to as as militants. It details violations of the laws of war committed by militants, and traces the sources of the weapons used by the militants in those abuses. The report also discusses abuses by Indian forces and weapons supplies to the Indian government. It concludes with a series of recommendations to the Sikh and Kashmiri militants, the Indian government, and the countries that directly or indirectly have supplied them with weapons, particularly Pakistan and the United States.Summary
The massive proliferation of small arms and light weapons in South Asia is directly linked to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and the subsequent creation by the United States of a system, commonly known as the Afghan pipeline, to funnel weapons covertly to the Afghan resistance. The Afghan pipeline enabled the transfer of tens of thousands of tons of weaponry to the mujahidin; the weapons were procured by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (cia), and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (isi) served as the conduit. The isi received and stored weapons acquired by the U.S. and distributed them to Afghan party leaders who turned them over to field commanders. To conceal U.S. involvement, the cia provided limited oversight over the workings of the pipeline and imposed virtually no effective controls. Even the total numbers of weapons that the cia transferred may have been impossible, or too sensitive, to document; the former director of the Afghan bureau of the isi maintains that the isi kept no records.
The deliberate efforts to dodge accountability on the part of the U.S. and Pakistan allowed weapons to be siphoned off from the pipeline, apparently by the isi and by Afghan mujahidin who, many claim, sold weapons to raise cash for field supplies or for personal gain. Massive quantities of siphoned-off pipeline weapons have been found in the arms bazaars in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province--available to any purchaser with sufficient capital.
Large numbers of pipeline weapons have made their way into the hands of Sikh and Kashmiri militants. Evidence suggests that the militants obtain the weapons in several ways: directly from members of Pakistan's intelligence and military establishment, particularly the isi, from the arms bazaars in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, and from former Afghan fighters. There is compelling evidence that elements of the Pakistani government have sponsored a significant flow of arms to Kashmiri militants, as well as an extensive training program. There is also substantial evidence that Sikh militants in Indian Punjab have had ready access to Pakistan's arms stockpiles.
The human rights situations in Punjab and Kashmir have been acutely affected by the militants' acquisition of advanced small arms and light weapons diverted from the U.S.-supplied Afghan pipeline. In recent years, militants in both states have committed numerous, serious violations of humanitarian law, including direct attacks on unarmed civilians, indiscriminate attacks, summary executions, hostage-taking, rape, threats to commit bodily harm, and the use of religious sites for military purposes.(3)
Advanced weapons, many of them originally from the Afghan pipeline, were used frequently by Sikh militants directly in the perpetration of abuses, and allowed them, in violation of international norms, to instill terror deliberately in the general population. The influx of automatic rifles, in particular, made it easier for Sikh militants to kill greater numbers of civilians by opening fire on crowds of people. Kashmiri militants have also used advanced weapons in the course of attacks on civilians, though far less frequently than Sikh militants. It is also likely that the Kashmiri militant arsenal has contributed to their ability to instill terror in the civilian population, particularly local Hindus, tens of thousands of whom have fled the Kashmir valley.
The extreme gravity of the abuses committed by militant groups in Punjab and Kashmir is in part a direct consequence of the diffusion of advanced light weapons and small arms, and the evident failure of those assisting the militants to pressure them to respect human rights and abide by the rules of war. Pakistani support for the militants--direct support in the form of arms shipments and training, and indirect support in the form of a green light to purchase arms originally destined for Afghanistan--has greatly facilitated abuses. The deliberate efforts by the U.S. to evade accountability for the diffusion of arms, and the U.S.'s continuing silence regarding its responsibililty, has also been an element contributing to abuses.
The Arms Project believes that governments that provide arms and training to armed opposition groups should bear some responsibility for the willingness or failure of the recipients to abide by the minimum humane standards established in international humanitarian law. While the Arms Project takes no position on whether states should ever support insurgents in second countries, it believes that whenever assistance is provided, the supporting government must assume some responsibility for ensuring that the recipients act only within the limits of international standards regulating armed conflict. Governments should use their influence to this effect, and sever all support to those groups that persistently violate the standards of the laws of war.
Although not the focus of this report, the human rights record of the Indian government in Punjab and Kashmir is appalling. Abuses in Kashmir are clearly on the rise.(4) Government security forces engage in systematic violations of human rights and humanitarian law, including attacks on entire villages in retaliation for insurgent military operations. Frequent instances of torture, extrajudicial killing, rape, and unprovoked firing on peaceful demonstrations are well-documented. At a time when its human rights record is deteriorating, India is accelerating its arms purchases from foreign sources. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, several countries, including the U.S., Israel, Russia, Germany and France, have begun to provide India with arms and other forms of military assistance, and others are negotiating to do so. It does not appear that human rights considerations figure highly, if at all, in these transactions, or that governments negotiating arms deals are prepared to monitor and to take responsibility for the misuse of such weaponry.Key Recommendations
Militant organizations in Kashmir and Punjab, and Indian government forces, should abide by internationally recognized principles of human rights and humanitarian laws. The government of Pakistan should end all support for abusive militant organizations in Kashmir and Punjab. Countries that choose to provide weapons, ammunition, or other forms of military assistance to militants in Kashmir and Punjab, or to Indian government forces, should condition such transfers explicitly on the human rights performance of the recipient, and then monitor closely the recipient's human rights record. Supplier countries should terminate weapons transfers and all other military support immediately if the recipient fails to adhere to international humanitarian law and internationally recognized principles of human rights.
The government of Pakistan should investigate the involvement of the isi and other governmental agencies in the sale or transfer of weapons, and the provision of training and other assistance, to militants in Punjab and Kashmir. The government should halt such practices pending imposition and implementation of explicit human rights conditions, formal central government authorization and strict controls. The Pakistani government, with the assistance and support of the international community, should formulate viable measures to help control the spread of weapons to and from the Northwest Frontier Province.
The governments of Pakistan and the United States should formally investigate allegations that members of the isi siphoned off weapons without authorization from the Pakistani-controlled, U.S.-orchestrated pipeline. The results of these investigations should be made public, and the respective governments should take appropriate legal action. The United States should investigate allegations that stockpiles of pipeline weapons are currently maintained in Pakistan under the control of the isi, and formulate effective measures for recovering or destroying any pipeline weapons. In all future arms transfers, whether covert or not, the United States should insist on strict accountability by the recipients and intermediaries, and strict adherence to international standards of humanitarian law.Notes
1. Throughout this report, the term "Kashmir" is used to describe that part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir that lies in the valley of the Jhelum river and includes the towns and villages of Handwara, Baramulla and Sopore to the northwest, Anantnag to the southeast, and Srinagar in the center. This is the primary area of conflict.
2. Human Rights Watch/Asia has issued various reports detailing serious human rights violations by both government forces and militant groups in Punjab and Kashmir: Human Rights Watch/Asia, "Continuing Repression in Kashmir: Abuses Rise as International Pressure on India Eases," A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 6, no. 8, August 1994; Human Rights Watch/Asia and Physicians for Human Rights, Dead Silence: The Legacy of Abuses in Punjab (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1994); Asia Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, The Human Rights Crisis in Kashmir: A Pattern of Impunity (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1993); Asia Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, Rape in Kashmir: A Crime of War (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1993); Asia Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, The Crackdown in Kashmir: Torture of Detainees and Assaults on the Medical Community (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1993); Asia Watch, Encounter in Pilibhit: Summary Executions of Sikhs (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1991); Asia Watch, Punjab in Crisis (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1991); Asia Watch, Kashmir Under Siege (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1991); Asia Watch, Prison Conditions in India (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1991).
3. As explained in the Legal Appendix, while some of the laws of war may not be legally binding on militant organizations, the Arms Project believes that the laws of war provide standards to which insurgent groups should be held.
4. See, Human Rights Watch/Asia, "Continuing Repression in Kashmir," August 1994.