by Hamid Abbasi
Borders, whether declared or symbolic have always played a pivotal role in the revolving dynamics of two nuclear armed neighbors from South Asia, India and Pakistan. Living without divisions (Geographical) for centuries, it seems odd that the two have not settled well within laid down boundaries by the British for the past 66 years. After a relative calm of over a decade, though stained by events like 26/11 (Mumbai) once again the long rested artillery has come into play, thankfully limited to the border line till now. Where heaves have fallen with no affect in the expiring decade, New Delhi claims captured center stage with reference to the killing of 5 of its soldiers along the Line of Control (Cease Fire Line) with little known till date on the events leading to the killing. The top offices in New Delhi seemed confused as to the on-ground facts, with contradiction over the killers being Pakistani Military Personnel, militants backed by the military or solely militants wearing the uniforms of Pakistan army.
Till date both India and Pakistan have come a long way in establishing laid down channels of communications (Hot Lines) if some sort of unusual activity or actions come around. Even the Romans of medieval were sane enough to understand that separation of sentiments and sense is critical in state’s affairs, especially toward policy initiatives and settings. But it seems that from New Delhi this time around the policy was rolled by flashing media screens, charged political analysts and infuriated mob marching toward Pakistan’s consulate or Friendship Bus Service instead of those responsible for the task. And it’s natural that when sentiments on street become the driving power of policy, the other side has no way of keeping it within the perimeters of decision or policy makers. In all, having come so long it seems that both New Delhi and Islamabad have found themselves at an opposite wave length, away from the policy if not agreed but understood for all those 66 years.
This leads us into the cause(s) as well as the outcome of this escalation in broader terms. The “Detente”seen over LOC and other shared border in the past decade is largely attributed to the dreadful wave of terror Pakistan has found itself in, and the restlessness toward its borderline with Afghanistan. New Delhi itself has moved away from the traditional borders after making deep inroads into Afghanistan, which seems to have an appetite for not only engaging but swallowing multiple powers in its treacherous terrains and dynamics. Call it proxy or undeclared war, the theater of activities for now is Afghanistan, unclear Indian consulates, its strategic and economic investments into Karzai regime and above all, an all-out war against Pakistan armed forces and its civilians in the shape of Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan.
Though hard to place on canvass, the Afghan theater is drawing to a climax rather than a conclusion. Doha round might have been marred with controversy over flag and official state name, in the meantime debate also centered about the role Pakistan is bound to play and India’s inclusion in the talks. This reflects the gravity of Pak-Indian stakes and involvement in the post 9/11 Afghanistan and their aspiration for the future. Meanwhile where borders have remained closely guarded, Indian side of Kashmir has from time to time erupted, although the magnitude has been fluctuating. There have been massive protests over human right abuses and also a continuous tension prevails among Muslim and Hindus of the valley. Indians have successfully poured in investment and tourist into Kashmir but the mainstream political leadership still spends months locked up in order to dispel protests and uprising. For this, India under Manmohan has remained far away from winning hearts and minds in Kashmir, and it will be the case in the future as well. Since 2013, Indian circles have predicted and pointed at the return of militancy in Kashmir, indirectly pointing at cross border elements in renewing their support to the Kashmiri fighters. With itself being transformed into the shooting gallery thanks to the front line status in War on Terror, it is hardly realistic to expect this from Pakistan at this hour especially. Also if this is the case, the Indian have a tremendous military presence on the LOC to counter such activities along with UN mission stationed at the border on each side to view 1st hand.
For this, it can be safely said that New Delhi has preempted an upsurge in the valley by calling false alarm over something which never happened. The hype is to bring all international attention toward the LOC and also ensure than Pakistan is on a loose ground for even moral support in case some popular insurgence takes place in the valley. India being the biggest democracy has an election closing in with some highly unusual factsheet as seen in the past. The opposition, BJP is fielding a candidate which has rose in the party ranks based on his practical hatred toward Muslims. On the other hand the ruling Congress has been under tremendous pressure to improve its standing by capturing on vote bank shifting to BJP side. So prior to election a standoff with Pakistan with sentiments prevailing over sense, nationalistic speeches and small skirmishes will play on Congress side and this might explain the unusual handling of this episode.
Over and above, it can be assumed that the prevailing standoff between Pakistan and India will diminish for the time being unless recklessness from either end becomes the rule of the game. New Delhi should have gone an extra mile in welcoming the new government in Pakistan instead of towing traditional lines. A sustained relationship between the rivals depends upon India and Pakistan willingness to accept each other mandate, interests and objectives. Kashmiris have struggled for the past 6 decades, and there is no reason that they on their own can rise for independence. In this decade we have seen Libya, Egypt, Tunisia etc turning the page of history which was unimaginable so why foresee Kashmiris as alien to such aspirations and actions. If India can read on the wall, it is time for it to see Kashmir through a new lens, instead of how it has interpreted them from 1948.