LoC Skirmishes: State of War or War of States

Cynicism, recriminations and retribution: these are the three words that perhaps best describe the now routine saga of firing incidents on the LoC between India and Pakistan. The pattern is easy to discern: one side provokes the other and the other responds in due measure or even more intensely.  A bout of recriminations-accusations and counter accusations- ensues which is followed by denunciation. Often times it is civilians who get killed or maimed in the gunfights between the two arch rivals.  The toll of life exacted, instead of generating sympathy for the dead arouses anger and indignation in the respective publics of the two nations. This is followed by a lull till the whole saga repeats itself again.

There is an eerie echo of this pattern in the latest bout of violence between India and Pakistan on the LoC in which eleven civilians have been reportedly killed. In military and perhaps even in political terms what is significant is that the pattern of cross firing between India and Pakistan has remained and continues to remain localized. That is, while there is escalation in the intensity and frequency of firing incidents along the LoC but these do not go beyond the Line of Control. While this is good news in terms of the escalatory potential of the LoC flare-ups into either war or limited war, it raises two pertinent questions. One is, how long will the LoC flare-ups remain localized? This assumes significance given the rather disappointing performance of the BJP government in India and the mounting discontent against it and the fluid but volatile condition in Pakistan. If the BJP government continues to drift and if conditions in Pakistan deteriorate or if real powers in Pakistan decide to open up the Kashmir front again, then the stage might be set again for some kind of adventurism between the two.

However alarmist this scenario might sound, it cannot be discounted from the realm of possibility. But what about Kashmiris who continue to be hapless and helpless victims of the Indo Pak hostility? If today¬ís example is used as an instance, it is Kashmiris- whether on this side or the other side that have been killed. The point here is not to ethnicize the killings; human life is human life and at the end of the day it is humans who lose their lives but to bring to bear a perspective on the serial killings on either side of the LoC.  The irony is that both India and Pakistan claim to hold Kashmiris dear and deem the well being and security of Kashmiris to be sacrosanct. But , in the final analysis, this seems to be a rhetorical flourish that flounders on the rocks of reality. The LoC firing which leaves Kashmiris dead is an eloquent testimony to this.

What can be culled from these developments is that the state centric paradigm that defines India and Pakistan¬ís antagonism towards each other blunts and perhaps even negates the human side of the costs of this conflict. This paradigm  not only breeds mutual antagonism and entrenches hatred on both sides but leads to human misery and even gratuitous loss of life. An alternate paradigm is the need of the hour  lest the spiral of conflict on the LoC degenerates into something more alarming and to ensure the safety, security and prosperity of Kashmiris on either side of the border.  This paradigm could be the human security paradigm wherein human life and human security, dignity and prosperity come first and state interests later. Admittedly difficult to translate into practice and reality, this approach is probably the most prudent antidote to conflict in general and the micro mini war on the LoC.  It is this approach and its crystallization that civil society of both sides should root for.  What may emerge from this is the extent to which either sides claims of holding Kashmiris dear and central to their concerns are true or false. If nothing else we Kashmiris will get some clarity over how important they are to both India and Pakistan.

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