Killing Peace?

Despite all the diplomatic efforts and peace initiatives undertaken by New Delhi and Islamabad to remove ‘trust deficit’ between the two countries, the LoC unfortunately remains a hostile place where death and destruction continues to lurk in every nook and corner. So, the latest killing of two Indian army troopers by Pakistan army is certainly not an unusual phenomenon. However, the allegation that Pakistani troops had crossed the LoC and after killing the two Indian soldiers decapitated one corpse, if true, is to say the least, is not only a despicable act of savagery which violates the universal code of conduct of men in uniform but also has the potential of spiraling out of control if not addressed immediately.

The run up to this incident is rather intriguing. Just a few days back, the Pakistan army claimed that Indian soldiers had crossed the LoC and attacked a Pakistani post killing one soldier and wounding another. This incident happened shortly after the Pakistan army had enunciated its new military doctrine in which “home grown terrorism” was seen as a bigger threat than India. While the new doctrine makes good sense, it is bound to invite the wrath of ‘hawks’, both within the Army and outside- for the ever looming threat from India has historically been cited as the raison d’être for existence of the Pakistan army. Therefore, for the hardliners, any capitulation from this stance would be nothing short of a sacrilegious act. On January, 8, Pakistan army Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani emphasised the need for the Army to remain fully prepared to respond to the “full spectrum of threats”, be they direct or indirect, overt or covert. And the killing of the two Indian troopers occurred the same day. So, could this be a mere coincidence or a deliberate act to demonstrate to the hardliners that by giving importance to ‘home grown’ terror, the Pakistan Army would not be ‘going soft’ on its traditional adversary?

While the Pakistan army has denied the allegations, sources in India have claimed that this act was in ‘retaliation’ to the Indian attack on a Pakistani post. And herein lies the paradox. If the Indian army had indeed crossed the LoC and attacked a Pakistani check point, then its reaction to this gross violation of the LoC evoked a rather weak response. With UN observers present, it is inconceivable as to why the Pakistan army did not lodge any formal complaint regarding this brazen violation and get the UN observers to the site to substantiate their claim. However, in the absence of any concrete evidence, it would not be correct to infer that the Pakistan army is the real villain.

In an incisive article (India accuses Pakistani troops crossing Kashmir line, The Guardian, January 8) Jason Burke, a prolific writer and correspondent, has made an interesting observation regarding this incident that “another possibility is a desire among Pakistani senior officers to send a strong signal to India that the recent doctrinal shift does not signify a new weakness in the 65-year face-off across the frontier. The earlier incident (alleged Indian attack on a Pakistani post) created no signs of escalating tensions and received relatively little media attention in either country”. So, could this be the possible reason behind this dastardly act? Once again, one can’t be very sure.

Whatever be the real reason, both the Indian and Pakistan armies should realise that any escalation in violence levels along the LoC achieves nothing and only precipitates human tragedy. While the respective government take care of the kith and kin of soldiers killed ‘in the line of duty’, it is the innocent civilians residing on both sides of the LoC who bear the actual brunt of this senseless violence. Though Pervez Musharraf may have done many a wrongs, he nevertheless needs to be complimented for his 2003 ceasefire initiative along the LoC- a cease fire which, precarious though it may be, has fortunately been holding out till now. But with the latest developments, the situation could reverse if both armies decide to adopt ‘an eye for an eye’ policy.

The Editorial of January, 4 (Changing Paradigm) carried by The Express Tribune on Pakistan army’s new military doctrine reads, “Another consequence of this potential shift is that it may nudge the peace process along. The military has often been seen as a roadblock in the quest for permanent peace and India is fearful that it may scuttle whatever little progress has been achieved. If the military does indeed follow through and concentrate more resources on the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), it could leave our politicians free to negotiate with India without having to continually look over their shoulders.” And this observation deserves due consideration as Pakistan is indeed in serious trouble on account of ‘home grown’ terror and needs help. India is in a position to help and should do so, not as an act of charity but to ‘mend fences’ so that the scourge of terrorism which is threatening both countries can be contained through mutual help.

Tail piece: For over six decades, ‘hawks’ on both sides of the LoC have ruled the roost and just see what it has done! Now the time has finally come for taking hard decisions- either we bleed each other and like juveniles rejoice whenever blood is spilled on the other side of the LoC or behave in a mature manner and decide to make a concerted effort against terrorism. Both countries win if they come together and if they don’t then it is the terrorists who win. The choice is ours, but who will take the first step?

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