The heightened tensions between India and Pakistan, which flared up after India accused Pakistani troops of staging a raid across the Poonch sector of the Line of Control in Kashmir on August 6 continue to accelerate. Indeed, Islamabad is reported to be considering reducing diplomatic staff at its High Commission in New Delhi, with the war of words assuming an increasingly angry tone. This is not comforting, and as allegations flow across the border, there is a real fear that attempts to rebuild the peace process with India could be affected. This, of course, would be a tragedy, for both countries and also the region.
Yes, we have heard some words of sense. India’s Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid has said that the matter must be dealt with between the civilian governments and not with the military. He, however, has emphasised that the Pakistan government must take responsibility for the incident. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has attempted to de-escalate tensions by regretting the loss of life, but loud cries heard in New Delhi grow increasingly hostile. They come from Army Chief Bikram Singh, opposition leader Rajnath Singh, the hawkish Bharatiya Janata Party which hopes to win India’s next election and the media — which is stirring up greater and greater public frenzy. Calls have been made for a cancellation of the meeting between prime ministers Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif, scheduled on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York next month, and for the withdrawal of the Pakistani High Commissioner to New Delhi. In Islamabad, the Defence Committee of the Cabinet is to discuss options.
The situation is highly disquieting. It shows just how easily things can flare up as a result of a single incident. Telephone talks between military officers have failed to calm things down. What we also see is active efforts by military, political and media players, most notably in India, to play up the situation. The effort seems to be to derail the peace process as the Manmohan Singh government comes under growing pressure. These voices trying to disrupt talks must not be allowed to succeed; a halt at this point in a bid to normalise ties would be disastrous and both governments must work to ensure these elements fail.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2013.
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