Off the cricket pitch, former cricketer PM Imran Khan’s cabinet has been forced to be involved in a series of unpleasant exchanges with the Indian government. Recently, both nations have lambasted each other for being involved in terrorist activities, which, despite the frivolity with which it is spoken, are highly serious allegations. One of the ultimate disputes is about Kashmir. Whereas previously much of the ado was about verbal and open, empty threats, India’s targeting of a helicopter carrying the Azad Jammu and Kashmir premier on September 30 suggests a shift in momentum.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi spoke in a professional manner, naming India for defensive actions by Pakistan, at the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 29. Counsellor at the Pakistan Mission to the United States Saad Ahmed Warraich followed suit by being equally poised in condemning the Indian administration’s actions. The timing of the attack on AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider’s helicopter as he travelled to a remote village near the Line of Control points to anger and nervousness in response to Pakistan’s counter-allegations that India was puppeteering terrorist activities in Pakistan, especially those that resulted in mass casualties, such as the APS attack in 2014.
While both sides have adopted tough positions, caution needs to be adopted as civilian lives would be at stake. Spokespersons for both countries have a responsibility to choose their words wisely and cautiously. We can probably expect the war of words to gain further momentum, but this is not conducive to peace and progress. The two nuclear-armed nations must always keep in mind that hardening of attitudes could lead to a disaster with horrifying consequences. India should not try to increase or protect its vote bank by fuelling its war and hate rhetoric against Pakistan. India’s rejection of dialogue last week is petty and immature. When India is not willing to work reasonably, Pakistan needs to be meticulous with its diction and allegations because we do not know what irrational next step India could take. Neither side can afford war, and such provocations should be avoided at all costs.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2018.