Border tensions

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The tensions between India and Pakistan are once again touching a crescendo. With border tensions having escalated during past few days, now followed by belligerent statements from the political and military leadership of both countries, the situation is certainly far from being just a routine. Interestingly as has always been the case, both countries are blaming each-other for violating the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. Both claim it is the other side which resorts to firing and shelling and that their own forces are only retaliating in a “befitting” manner. In the prevailing confusion, it is impossible for anyone to ascertain the reality as to who actually the aggressor is, and who is retaliating in defence. But irrespective of who could and should actually be blamed, fact of the matter remains that innocent people on either side of the border, those who live and work close to the LoC – the poor people of Jammu and Kashmir in both sides — are once again at the receiving end of the Indo-Pak hostilities.

Now the question is: why is all that is happening along the LoC and international border in J&K, happening? Is India deliberately raising the temperatures along the borders as the new elections are approaching? Or is Pakistan doing it in retaliation to India’s spurning its latest peace initiatives in the aftermath of two countries agreeing to open Kartarpur corridor? Or is it that both the countries are doing it under some tacit understanding so as to ease their respective domestic political pressures? There are certainly many more reasons which could be cited as being the possible motivation for the each party to do what all they are doing along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir.

However, whatever the cause, the unfortunate reality again is that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are once again caught between the guns of two countries. The protracted conflict between the two neighbours, which has been raging since their inception in 1947, is as ever, still being fought in Jammu and Kashmir over the heads of the poor people of this God forsaken region. And what is still more unfortunate is — that it is the strategic thinkers of the two countries sitting in New Delhi and Islamabad who determine the fate of the people of living along both sides of the Line of Control. Both sides have always used the latter (J&K people) as cannon fodder for their strategic grand-plans — sometimes to settle scores against one another; sometimes to appeal to, and deal with their domestic constituencies, and problems respectively; and sometimes to communicate something else to the international audiences! If the history of their past engagements – be they on the borders or even across the dialogue tables, is taken as a pointer, one has a reason not to hope much – neither from their belligerent war talk nor from their willingness for parleys as and when they come alternatively. Yes this approach is rooted in pessimism, but unfortunately people of Jammu and Kashmir have very little reason to be optimistic about India and Pakistan relations showing any improvement in near future.

It goes without saying that war is no longer the ultimate arbiter of disputes, nor is it any longer seen as an acceptable way of dispute resolution. History of conflicts world-over is replete with the evidence suggesting that with or without war, disputes are ultimately resolved and settled only through talks. But in case of India and Pakistan, both the options have so far yielded nothing. They have fought wars – both full-blown conventional as well as low-intensity proxy campaigns, as well as high-pitched diplomatic battles; and they have time and again even talked about their problems and issues both directly as well as through intermediaries, at multiple tracks – track-I track-II and the like, yet there has hardly been any headway in their disputes and relationships. So one really wonders how long it is going to take for the two to understand that they can’t wish each-other away. That they will have to live with each-other as neighbours as they can’t change their geography. But what they can certainly change is their history — by charting a new course by agreeing to talk their differences out and backing up the initiative with a resolve to sustain such talks come what may. Continuing and sustaining the negotiation process is what holds promise for the future of entire South Asia and the world, besides being a fitting reply to all the spoilers, within and without.

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