It is extremely difficult to know what India hopes to gain by the latest outbreak of firing across the Line of Control in the Bhimber sector that killed seven Pakistani soldiers. The incident occurred late on Sunday night, was unprovoked and brought what was described as a ‘befitting response’ from our military details of which have yet to be released. Indian officials have yet to make a response.
With diplomatic relations at an all-time low after a spate of tit-for-tat expulsions after spying allegations by both sides, whatever was left of a nascent peace deal is in tatters. Trade, always far smaller than its actual potential, has virtually dried up, the cinema industry in Pakistan is negatively affected and there are jitters about how the new Trump Presidency in America may tilt more towards India as a partner.
Recent weeks have seen an increase in incidents of this sort which have led to protest by Pakistan to the UN military observers and the death of at least 26 civilians and the injury of another 107. And all to what end other than terrorising the civilians unlucky enough to live within range of Indian long guns? There is no ground to be won, there is no invasion to support, no ground troops calling for support fire. The origins of this hot peace lie clearly within the Kashmir dispute, and the killing of a Kashmir activist. Tensions have escalated in Kashmir since then with Indian troops involved in any number of incidents that have led to deaths and appalling injuries, particularly to the eyes of many protesters.
Meanwhile the rest of the world looks in the other direction. Whatever intervention America could have made is negated by a Trump win. Clinton would have at the least provided continuity but now there is deep uncertainty. The UN continues to sit on its hands and India pushes ever closer to an explosive tipping-point. Domestic pressures are stoking the fires in India and Mr Modi is doing nothing to damp them down. Once again we appeal for calm, but view developments with considerable trepidation.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 15th, 2016.
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