On Tuesday, in Machil area of North Kashmir, three Army men were killed, one of them mutilated,in a gunfight with infiltrating militants ratcheting up the tension between India and Pakistan by several notches. This is the second such incident of mutilation of the body of an Indian soldier in the same sector since October 28 when militants had crossed the LoC and killed an Indian soldier and mutilated his body.
Similarly, the Army in Kashmir has recovered two Rs 2000 notes and some more currency in Rs 100 notes from the two militants slain in an encounter at Hajin area of North Kashmir district of Kashmir. The find has made people once again question the wisdom of the demonitisation of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes which was justified for its usefulness in choking the flow of funds to the militant groups. The new currency on the bodies of the militants has proved that no matter what, supply of money will not be a problem for the militants.
However, the growing number of killings of the soldiers and the civilians along the border has been a recurrent cause of concern since the Uri attack which killed 19 Indian soldiers. The attack which was followed by a surgical strike by India on the militant launchpads across LoC has since inflamed the border. The killings have mounted on both sides. So far, seventeen Indian soldiers have lost their lives including the three in Machil. In response, India has warned of a heavy retribution. The Army has already launched a massive assault on Pakistan along the Line of Control in Poonch and Rajouri districts to avenge the killings. In response, Pakistan Army has also reportedly fired at Indian posts along the LoC in Bhimber Gali, Krishna Ghati and Nowshera sectors. A Pakistani intruder was also killed in firing by Border Security Forces along the International Border in RS Pura sector of Jammu district. Over 290 incidents of firing and shelling along the LoC and the International Border have been witnessed since Indian army conducted surgical strikes.
This is a fraught situation and bodes ill for the peace in the subcontinent. The situation has every chances of escalating into a big confrontation. More so, when as a result of the lack of an engagement, the two countries lack the crisis tools to address the deteriorating situation. This calls for urgent measures by both the countries to pull the situation back from the brink.
The primary challenge for the neighbours is to live like normal neighbours which is something they have been singularly unable to do over the past two years. In fact, as the recent border skirmishes have once again underlined the two countries remain farthest from even confronting sanely their issues or handling their respective truths. Even sometimes a small incident brings into play a complex play of history, memory and prejudice. Things have gotten only worse over the years with even a statement by a politician in one country exposing raw nerve endings in another. There is now so much vitriol against each other in a substantial section of public life of the both countries – with media playing a role in fanning it – that it seems unnatural that the two countries could ever be friends. Best thing that can happen to India and Pakistan under the circumstance is for them to learn to deal with their troubled relationship with a degree of care, maturity and understanding