Volatile borders

Kashmir Times. Dated: 2/7/2018 2:55:31 PM

Increasing hostility on the borders necessitate process of political engagement between Delhi and Islamabad

Amidst unprecedented increase in incidents of cross-border firings on the Line of Control and the International Border in the last over a month, the statistics of ceasefire violations in the last three years revealed on the floor of the state legislative assembly are shocking. They demonstrate a systemic increase in the hostilities between the armies of India and Pakistan on two sides of the border. 97 people including 41 civilians have been killed and 383 injured in 843 ceasefire violations in the last three years on the Indian side alone. These years have witnessed a steady rise in the hostile climate climate with 222 violations in 2015, 233 in 2016 and 379 in 2017; correspondingly, the number of casualties have also registered an increase. Prior to that, 2014 turned out to be bloody year for the border areas as it registered a three-fold increase in ceasefire violations. 46 people including 13 civilians were left dead and 101 injured in 583 violations on the international border and the Line of Control. 2014, coinciding with the rise of BJP government led by Narendra Modi to power, set the tone of an insecure future for the border areas when the BJP began its rule with the discourse of the militarism and misplaced chauvinism. The period coincided with the weakening of the Pakistani state and its increasing instability with power tussles between executive, judiciary and the army. The soldiers and the people living on the borders have had to pay a price for this political discourse that finds an expression in border violence.
The last four years have seen the increasing vulnerability of the people at the borders who become virtual sitting ducks for the armies on the two sides and there has been a massive increase in the manner in which civilian areas are often targeted during the cross-border violations. Militaristic chauvinism at the same time has enabled the government to normalise the bloodshed, displacements, loss to agriculture and economy and the various other ways in which the border people suffer. It has also allowed the government the ill-affordable luxury of almost snapping ties between Delhi and Islamabad, even though a process of engagement alone can help reduce tensions and begin the process of de-escalation of volatile violence. Interestingly, while the soldier is raised to the lofty pedestal of ultra-nationalism and jingoism to justify all kinds of hate mongering and pro-war rhetoric, the soldiers are ultimately being treated like cannon fodder by the political leadership, which has completely abdicated its responsibility of opening channels of negotiations. Precious lives are being lost at the altar of petty politics and misplaced egos as brinkmanship in the official and political circles on the two sides is fuelling the volatility of the situation. The strategy of tougher foreign policy by India and Pakistan with respect to each other is not only ineffective and leading to escalation of tensions, it is also enhancing the threat of war between the two nuclear neighbours which the two countries with their sagging economies and multiple political issues, or South Asia region as a whole and even the world can ill-afford. To break the deadlock between the two countries, leaders from both sides must agree to restart bilateral talks and resume a composite dialogue and bring under discussion all contentious issues including Kashmir. This must begin without losing time and by shunning respective egos and pretty politicking of the power wielders in the two states. The tit for tar policy of war rhetoric and violence must be replaced with talks and confidence building measures. This alone can restore longer lasting and durable peace, even though it is a time consuming process; and this is also in the best interests of the region, the two countries and their respective peoples.



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