BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Amid escalating tensions between India and Pakistan this week, Brunei’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Friday that citizens living in both countries are safe and accounted for.
A representative from the ministry told The Scoop that there are a small number of Bruneians living on the subcontinent, consisting of staff working at the missions in New Delhi and Islamabad, as well as students and travelers.
The official said that a team is currently monitoring the situation, as the threat of war loomed large this week, adding that the Bruneian citizens and permanent residents are well outside of the affected areas.
A string of violent escalations have pushed India and Pakistan to the brink of conflict, sparking global alarm and calls for restraint between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
The crisis was triggered on February 14, when 40 paramilitary troops were killed in a suicide bomb attack in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir. It was the deadliest militant attack there in three decades, and was claimed by Pakistan-based group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
The Brunei government strongly condemned the attack, calling it a threat to peace, stability and security in the region.
What triggered the crisis?
Kashmir has been a major flashpoint since the end of British rule in the subcontinent in 1947, with India and Pakistan fighting three wars over it, as well as a limited conflict in 1999.
A ceasefire line divides it between India and Pakistan, but both claim the Himalayan region in its entirety.
India has 500,000 troops stationed in the region to counter an armed insurgency by separatists seeking either independence or a merger with Pakistan.
After the suicide bombing on February 14, New Delhi demanded action from Islamabad, which it accuses of using militant groups as proxies to fuel unrest in Kashmir and carry out terror attacks in India.
On February 26, Indian warplanes crossed the Kashmir ceasefire line into Pakistani airspace, dropping bombs on what New Delhi described as a large JeM camp where militants were preparing to stage more attacks in India.
It was India’s first use of air power on Pakistani soil since the two fought a war in 1971 — when neither had nuclear weapons.
An infuriated Islamabad denied casualties or damage, but a day later launched its own incursion across the LoC.
That sparked the dogfight which ended in both countries claiming they had shot down each other’s warplanes, and led to the capture of one Indian pilot. Pakistan released the pilot four days later in a “peace gesture”.
The end of the air raids did not stop more violence raging in Kashmir, with both sides firing mortars and artillery over the frontier Saturday. At least 12 civilians have been killed on either side of the frontier since the start of the week.
Thousands of air travellers worldwide were also left stranded this week, after Pakistan closed its airspace for three days in response to escalating tensions, disrupting major routes between Europe and South East Asia.