Just as it seems that relations between traditionally hostile neighbours India and Pakistan may improve, with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s stated intention that he will pursue peace with Delhi, something happens. India’s defence minister has alleged that Pakistani soldiers killed five of its soldiers, and wounded another, 450 metres inside the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC), in an attack on their post. Pakistan has denied the accusations. The minister said that the attackers were dressed in uniforms but he did not say they were soldiers. The unconfirmed reports have caused an uproar in India, with, in predictable political maneouvres, a senior opposition leader calling on the government to drop the planned talks with Islamabad, as well as asking for a “befitting reply”. Rhetoric against Pakistan is flowing strong with India also saying that militants from Pakistan were trying to infiltrate Kashmir. One should mention that a day earlier, four Kashmiris on the Pakistani side of the LoC went missing and according to Indian media reports, quoting unnamed Indian Army sources, may have been killed.
The response of the Foreign Office to the latest accusations by India must be commended as they remain focused on the bigger picture, with the spokesperson stressing that the government remains committed to a constructive process of engagement with India. Dialogue between the two countries is, in fact, the only way to move ahead and away from this atmosphere of hostility which leads to accusations and feeds into fears on both sides of the border. While Pakistan looks to India’s increased engagement in Afghanistan warily, India, according to Indian media reports, is fearful that militants based in Pakistan may turn their focus on Kashmir with the impending withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. Pakistan must, of course, eliminate all forms of militancy from its soil, because by doing so it will take away a key point of conflict between the two nations.
Such incidents only reinforce the fact that the two countries must go ahead with talks. India would do well to take advantage of this and play its part in improving relations and ensuring that the peace process is not derailed.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2013.
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