There was an anticipation that the lull in cross-border firing by India that was evident in December 2016 would feed through to a normalisation of relations, the lull becoming long term and a platform on which peace negotiations may again be worked on, established. Today there are renewed violations along the Line of control (LoC) and the Working Boundary (WB) that have been noted with concern at the most recent Corps Commanders’ meeting at the general HQ in Rawalpindi. The level of concern was such that the violations are of so grave as to threaten regional stability.
This is no casual off-the-cuff observation. During the course of 2016 and for the first time in many years the Indians used heavy artillery to shell areas inside Pakistan. As many as 46 civilians died and at least 40 Indian soldiers died in retaliatory fire from Pakistan. There were incidents that gained notoriety — the shelling of an ambulance that had been the first responder to an earlier strike being but one — and the rhetoric emanating from India up to and including Prime Minister Modi was unrelenting. It was India that effectively delivered the death-blow to Saarc and the chances of a strategic miscalculation have risen considerably.
The firing across the LoC gains nothing for either side. There is no territorial gain to be made and such firing is not a precursor to an armoured incursion by either side. Pakistan has limited itself to a proportional response and the government of Nawaz Sharif has held its nerve and stayed its hand to its considerable credit. Opportunities to engage with India either directly or on the sidelines of any international moot are dwindling, but the upcoming meeting convened by Russia and China to promote peace talks in Afghanistan may provide a rare chance for interaction. At the heart of matters as ever is Kashmir. There is going to be no military resolution of what is now one of the longest-lived international disputes on the planet, and talking is going to be the only way forward. We remain faintly hopeful rather than robustly optimistic.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2017.
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