Alarm bells ringing loud


On Tuesday, the Indian army said it has attacked and destroyed Pakistani posts along the Line of Control to stop militants from crossing into India. The army also released what it said was a video of the military action that showed heavy artillery blowing up Pakistani bunkers and shelters on a mountain. The video was shot in Jammu’s Naushera sector, a  week after the beheading of two Indian soldiers by a team of Pakistan army. Major General Ashok Narula, the spokesperson for the Indian army chief General Bipin Rawat, said the objective of the military action was to “bring down the number of terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir so that youth are not adversely influenced by terrorists from across.” However, Pakistan again termed Indian claim “false”. Pakistan military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor also issued a video which showed its army shelling Indian positions.

Also, underlining further escalation in tension between the two countries, Pakistan Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman said on Monday that Pakistan will give a “befitting response” to any misadventure “from the enemy”. Replying to a question about the Indian air chief’s direction to his soldiers to “be ready for action at a short notice,” Pakistan air chief said if the adversary went for any misadventure, “our response to any aggression by the enemy will be such that their future generations will also remember it.”

Such aggressive statements from both sides have also prompted US intelligence chiefs to raise alarm.  They have warned Congress that India may launch aggressive actions inside Pakistan on the pretext of stopping cross-border attacks and that the ongoing exchange of artillery shells across the Line of Control (LoC) may lead to a direct conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbours. They said that the ties between the neighbours might deteriorate further in 2017, especially in the event of another high-profile terrorist attack in India “that New Delhi attributes to originating in or receiving assistance from Pakistan”.

The developments like these are deeply troubling. The escalating trend of the violent border exchanges  have already unravelled the 2003 ceasefire agreement which had held strong for close to a decade. The calm borders had become an important factor in the normalization of the relations between the two countries, enabling New Delhi and Islamabad to start one of the most promising dialogue processes through 2003-2007 which by accounts of the top leaders of the two countries who were at the helm of it was close to a breakthrough on Kashmir. But with return of the border eruptions with a vengeance, and the attendant prospect of a major attack  in Kashmir or mainland India, the situation is threatening to go back to square one. And if left unattended, the situation is likely to deteriorate and possibly lead to dangerous consequences. Hence the need for the two countries to reach out to each other and pull the situation back from the brink. With dialogue already suspended and tensions rising high, India and Pakistan can ill-afford to let the border skirmishes go on unchecked and escalate into a major conflict.








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