COVID-19 Challenge Most Critical in Kashmir, Vulnerable to Spread from Pakistan and Iran
| Col. Jaibans Singh - Editor (Defence & Strategic Affairs - IOP) - 02 Apr 2020

Jammu and Kashmir will need to look at the challenge of controlling the spread by inimical means emanating from across the border. Vigil along the border should be heightened; extensive intelligence activity to counter all Pakistani moves will be required. The Corona Virus challenge is by far, most critical for Indians in Kashmir; it will require a concerted effort to be kept in control.

By Jaibans Singh

In Jammu and Kashmir, the state Govt has stepped up the testing process. The Govt is pursuing contact tracing actively. Nearly 2000 contacts of positive cases, even asymptomatic ones also, have been traced & all would be tested. Total 08 new positive cases of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), 05 from Jammu division and 03 from Kashmir division, have been reported on Thursday, the total number of positive cases in Jammu and Kashmir has risen to 70, out of these, 65 are Active Positive, 03 have recovered and 02 have died. Of these, 53 are from Kashmir division and 17 from Jammu division, the state Govt has said. 

 " is better to be strict & firm initially than dealing with a large pool of infections at a later stage. It is first to start testing locally through 4 testing labs with testing rate 77.5 per million next only to Kerela. State has a total of 62 #COVID19 cases of which 58 are active cases,” Rohit Kansal, Principal Secy, Planning and also Spokesperson of the Govt of J&K said in a press conference on Wednesday.

“Govt is upgrading health infrastructure to fight the pandemic. It has set up 11exclusive #COVID19 hospitals, an administrative quarantine facility of over 35000 beds & 2400 treatment beds. Masks, PPEs and ventilators are being procured,” Rohit Kansal said.

As the world grapples with the spread of COVID 19, the possibility of a rapid spread in South Asia from Pakistan and Iran, where Chinese influence is more pronounced, is causing great concern.

China has a growing influence and presence in Iran. It is the largest buyer of Iranian oil after US President Donald Trump re-imposed sanctions on sale of Iranian oil; China has also committed billions of Dollars investment in Iran. As such, visits by a large number of Chinese to the country are routine. 

Chinese influence and presence in Pakistan need no elaboration.

A huge trading channel is running from Xinjiang in China to the Gwadar Port in Balochistan through Gilgit-Baltistan. Large numbers of Chinese are working on various CPEC related projects. They are moving around freely in almost all Government offices, military establishments and commercial areas of Pakistan.

Coming back to the Corona Virus, it is widely believed that China discovered the first trace of the virus in November 2019. The highly contagious nature of the virus was also known by December 2019, yet, the totalitarian regime of the country managed to keep the matter under wraps.

China declared the state of an epidemic in Wuhan only in late January. By then, the movement of millions of people had taken place in and out of Wuhan; many came towards Iran and Pakistan causing a wide-ranging spread of the infection. Iran has already declared a considerable presence of the Virus with more than 20,000 active cases and more than 2000 dead.  

Pakistan, however, is tight-lipped about the impact; its quoted figures are too less in comparison to other countries like Italy, Spain, US and Iran, where there is direct Chinese influence; thus, they are not reliable.

There are reports of widespread infection within the Pakistan Army inclusive of the families of military personnel.  The reason behind this possibility is not difficult to fathom, Pakistan Army personnel visit China frequently.

Monitoring of trade movement from China and the joint work of CPEC leads to close proximity of Army personnel with the Chinese. Being elitist in nature the soldiers, especially senior officers of the army did not subject themselves to quarantine in time. Hence, the infection in Pakistan Army rank and file would definitely have originated from China directly. This is considered to be the strongest most deadly strain of the Virus.

Reports suggest that scores of Pakistani army personnel have already tested positive and about 2000 are quarantined. Results of tests for a large number are awaited. The soldiers identified were serving in different areas of the country including Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Gilgit-Baltistan. Areas like Muzaffarabad, Domel, Bagh, Rawalakot, Kotli, Mirpur, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Rawalpindi, Muree and of course, Punjab have reports of cases flowing in.  

To avoid media glare and also to prevent more infection to Army persons, their families and others of the Pakistani political elite, Quarantine facilities for all infected personnel of this category are being established in POK and Gilgit-Baltistan. In order to hide the deep design, some affected civilians are also being allowed into the Quarantine areas.

There are already 624 cases in POK and 77 cases in Gilgit-Baltistan reported. These are the result of interaction with Iran and forced interaction with Chinese working on CPEC and in business ventures and also with Pakistan Army. Now with the large number of military cases being quartered there the region has been opened to a calamity. The poor people are in the cusp of yet another huge tragedy.

The spread of the virus in Jammu and Kashmir (mainly Kashmir) is escalating with a sudden spurt in the last few days being witnessed. As things stood on Sunday, 29 March, more than 30 positive cases with two deaths had been reported with Doctors expressing worry of a large increase in the coming days. It is believed that the virus came into the Valley through Iran where a fair number of the valley population goes for studies, business, and pilgrimage. Another reason for concern is that one person from Kashmir who was a part of a group that attended a Tablighi Jamaat congregation in New Delhi has died of the infection. Now efforts are on to trace all other attendees and quarantine them.

The Kashmir administration is putting in a herculean effort to control the situation. Facilities in the hospitals, mainly, SKIMS and Chest disease hospital is being ramped up, those who have a history of foreign travel within India and abroad are being identified and quarantined as are others who have come in contact with the first lot.

The Indian Army is helping in every way that it can; it has initiated a #CoronaMuktAwam campaign that is designed to create awareness on prevention and best practices through Pamphlets, Videos etc. and through Social Media. Those who are stranded are being looked after by the Army. It is also providing infrastructure support to the civilian administration by transporting Fumigation Machines and chemicals by air and other such activities.

With Pakistani Quarantine facilities so close to the Line of Control, proliferation from across to Kashmir also needs to be guarded against. Even a few infected clothes thrown on to his side can have a devastating consequence and doing something of this nature cannot be put beyond Pakistan.

Jammu and Kashmir, therefore, will need to look at the challenge of controlling the spread by inimical means emanating from across the border. The best recourse in Kashmir is that all those who have a travel history should declare themselves and go into voluntary Quarantine. The remainder population should, very strictly, follow the social distancing and lockdown norms. Vigil along the border should be heightened; extensive intelligence activity to counter all Pakistani moves will be required. The Corona Virus challenge is by far, most critical for Indians in Kashmir; it will require a concerted effort to be kept in control.

(Jaibans Singh is a reputed security analyst, columnist, and author)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Indian Observer Post and Indian Observer Post does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

Image credit - Twitter Handle of DIPR-J&K / Twitter Handle of Umar Ganie

INDIAN OBSERVER POST (IOP) is a Class, Creative, and Constructive News platform which publishes ONLY exclusive and Special News / Views / Interviews / Research Articles / Analysis / Columns / Features and Opinions on the national and international issues, politics, security, energy, innovation, infrastructure, rural, health, education, women, and entertainment. 



(Onkareshwar Pandey is Founder, Editor in Chief & CEO, Indian Observer Post and former Senior Group Editor- Rashtriya Sahara (Hindi & Urdu) and also former Editor, (News), ANI Email - Mob - 9910150119



Browse By Tags