Trouble At Borders

Trouble At Borders

11 December 2012
Kashmir Times


Srinagar: Fresh spate of hostilities at the Line of Control and the international border between Indian and Pakistani forces, after a brief lull, is a cause for concern and needs to be addressed before it goes out of hand. The reasons for fresh hostilities are not known though Indian forces have blamed their Pakistani counterparts for incidents of firing and shelling, similar to the over week long hostilities about a month ago. The Pakistan media and the establishment, however, have chosen to maintain a cryptic silence this time over the repeated incidence of such violence at the borders. The Indian forces are also not much forthcoming on the details of what causes such hostilities and what are the extent of damages on either side. However, they often claim that such incidents of firing are bids to cover the infiltration bids, which are successfully being foiled and in this backdrop, one cannot lose sight of the Indian side also mooting an all-weather fencing at the Line of Control. The genesis of hostilities at the borders can be multiple. They could be connected to probable infiltration bids, they could also be borne out of whims and fancies of troops operating at the borders or an outcome of one agency working against the other to sabotage peace or it could be the handiwork of agencies aiming to obstruct any healthy movement in India-Pakistan negotiations for long term friendship and longer lasting peace. While the causes need to be understood, rather than sweeping the issue under the carpet or casting a veil of secrecy over events that impact the lives of the people residing in these areas and also have the potential of affecting relations between the two countries. It would be a folly to deem such violations of the ceasefire as aberrations and overlook them. At the same time, both sides need to resist the temptation of turning the atmosphere of peace process into a discourse of hawkishness as it would severely impact the re-initiated process of dialogue and negotiations. Rather the ticklish problems at the frontiers needs to be resolved by initiating immediate talks on the issue and sorting out the mess that has begun to play havoc with lives of both security personnel and ordinary civilians living along the borders, besides re-creating a sense of panic and fear psychosis that had begun to wane ever since the ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan was put into place. Additionally, they threaten the very peace process and the tardy progress it has made on bilateral issues including CBMs like cross LoC bus service or a symbolic trade. Already the progress is too little and much more needs to be done to strengthen such CBMs and also double them up with basic spade work for more confidence building measures on the basic Kashmir issue. The situation is grave because the frequency of cross-firing bouts has increased and is repeatedly re-surfacing in the past six months or so. Every time, ceasefire violation takes place along the borders, both sides immediately begin indulging in blame game, or simply become silent about the entire affair. It is time to move beyond the blame game or complacency and begin serious negotiations to ensure that they do not take place and the sanctity of the agreement on ceasefire is maintained so that it can aid a more fruitful peace process between the two countries and also aid the process of the much needed resolution of Kashmir issue. Ceasefire on the borders is crucial for a healthy peace process, though on its own, it has no potential for resolving the ticklish and long pending issues between Islamabad and New Delhi. It can only be a good catalyst and therefore there is need to strengthen it, rather than letting complacency and hawkishness to take over and allowing the ceasefire to go haywire and out of control.