In early January of 2013, India levelled allegations against Pakistan of beheading one of two of their border policemen killed in an encounter on the LoC. Later that month, the Indian media let out that 12 of their troops had so been beheaded by Pakistani soldiers since 1998.
Not a scrap of evidence was offered by the Indians substantiating those claims: let alone the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) being allowed anywhere near the LoC by the Indians (whilst they are given complete freedom on our side of it); the two countries did not even have the good grace to form a joint commission of officers from both sides to hold a joint court of inquiry and investigate the matter. And, if indeed the horrid crime, for it was nothing else, was committed, for the criminal to be punished most severely.
Of course, none of that happened: the usual plethora of loud accusations followed from both sides, their retired generals, some wearing their regimental side-caps shouting for India to ‘be more aggressive’ towards Pakistan; our admirals and air marshals sticking their tongues out at them with the usual: ‘just you try it’, and so on and so forth.
The unseemly tamasha goes on ad nauseum. Just the other day, this newspaper of record informed us that DIG Indian Coast Guard, B K Loshali, was quoted as saying that the Pakistani fishing boat, which was alleged by the Indians to have been blown up by its own crew when hailed by the Indian Coast Guard because it was smuggling ‘illicit goods’, was actually ‘blown off’ by the Indian Coast Guard at his orders.
“The Indian Express report stated that the DIG ordered that the boat should be blown up as it had entered the sea to carry out an illicit transaction. ‘Let me tell you. I hope you remember 31st December night … We blew off that Pakistan … We have blown them off … I was there at Gandhinagar and I told at night, blow the boat off. We don’t want to serve them biryani … .” the Express quoted DIG BK Loshali, who is also chief of staff (northwest Region), as saying.”
Whilst I have myself heard and seen the DIG say this: Full Story here
He now says: “I do not subscribe to the report. I have not made this statement. The operation was not being handled by me. I was not privy to it completely. I reiterate the boat set herself on fire and was not sunk by coast guard.” What he means by ‘I was not privy to it completely’ only he can tell us. Was he half-privy to it? It is to be noted that DIG Loshali’s claims are “contradicted by the (Indian) defence ministry which maintained that the people in the boat blew up the vessel”.
So there we have it, us two sub-continental neighbours socking it out on a weekly basis and showing ourselves to the world for what we are.
Now, whilst much cruelty and barbarity has been seen recently elsewhere, there are instances of extreme valour and honour also. Such as the one about 2/Lt Charlie Brown of the United States Army Air Force, and his stricken B-197 Flying Fortress; and German Ace Franz Stigler and his fast and deadly Messerschmitt Bf 109 G6.
According to a report in the Daily Mail of December 9, 2012, “the bombing mission targeting a German munitions factory had been a success, but … pilot Charlie Brown’s attempts to get home safely seemed doomed to failure.
“His B-17F bomber had been attacked by no fewer than 15 planes — leaving one of his crew dead and six wounded; 2/ Lt Brown himself had been knocked out and regained consciousness just in time to right his plane after it went into a dangerous nose dive.
“But as he tried to return from the raid on Bremen to the safety of Allied territory after the mission on December 20, 1943, the danger was not over. Brown soon had another major concern: a German plane was flying directly next to his own — so close that the pilot was looking him directly in the eyes and making big gestures with his hands that only scared Brown.
“The pilot in question was Franz Stigler, a 26-year-old ace who had 22 victories to his name — needing just one more to be awarded the Knight’s Cross. But on that day, as his Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6 Bf-109 closed in on the US plane, he sensed something was wrong — the enemy plane was not engaging with him; in fact, unbeknown even to Brown, the plane had lost its tail-gun compartment and one wing was badly damaged.
“As Stigler drew closer he saw the gunner covered in blood, and how part of the plane’s outside had been ripped off. And he saw the wounded, terrified US airmen inside, trying to help one another tend to their injuries. It was then he remembered the words of his commanding officer Lt Gustav Roedel. ‘Honour is everything here,’ he had told a young Stigler before his first mission. ‘Remember, you are fighter pilots first, last, always. If I ever hear of any of you shooting at someone in a parachute, I’ll shoot you myself.” Stigler later commented, ‘To me, it was just like they were in a parachute. I saw them and I couldn’t shoot them down.’” Stigler saluted Brown and peeled away, allowing the bomber to limp its way to its base in England.
I have suggested it before, let me do so again. In matters such as the beheading/firing allegations, let the Indians accept neutral observers such as the UNMOGIP. If they feel (I do not, incidentally) that these words of the Simla Agreement take away the right of either country to ask Third Parties to mediate: “That the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them” then let them agree to form Joint Inquiry Boards made up of officers from both sides. They could even investigate instances of ‘blowing off’.
The point is just this: will India and Pakistan go on living like perpetual enemies, at each other’s throats all of the time? Won’t help.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2015.