It is almost year now since surgical strikes albeit strongly denied by Pakistan – were carried out by the Army across the Line of Control. The strike followed eleven days after the Uri attack on September 18, which killed 19 soldiers. Army said the strikes were carried out with absolute precision and the targets were completely destroyed with no casualty being suffered by the Indian forces. Though the surgical strike was undertaken as a retributive measure to prevent ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the attacks by militants from Pakistan inside J&K or other parts of India, nothing of the sort has happened. Since Indias surgical strike last year, the firing exchanges across the International Border and LoC have intensified leading to loss of lives of the soldiers and the civilians on both sides. This state of affairs has made the 2003 ceasefire agreement all but redundant. The new policy in New Delhi is to respond forcefully to Pakistans transgressions. Lt General D S Hooda (retd) who led the surgical strikes has said in an interview that the surgical strike went according to plan and adds a serious option to Indias range of responses to terror attacks. This means that emboldened by the lack of response from Pakistan, the Army is raring to embark on another strike should there be another Uri-like attack in India.
On the other hand, in a statement issued last year, Pakistan Army warned India that any misadventure will have unintended consequences. This is a fraught state of affairs. Both nations have allowed the situation to worsen and neither seems ready to take the first step towards normalising the situation. There is every chance about the situation getting out of hand. The lack of dialogue has deprived the two sides of the necessary crisis tools to handle the situation in the event of a major provocation on either side. Another major attack in Kashmir or the rest of India could push the situation over the edge. Similarly, another surgical strike by India could trigger a major confrontation between the two countries. Continuing with the current stalemate is dangerous and fraught with the prospect of a dangerous escalation. Engagement is the only option if the two countries want to avert a major crisis.
The political machismo may win politicians their votes and retribution may give sections of the media their high and TRPs, but a government policy guided and dictated by such considerations and pressures will lead to catastrophic consequences in the long term. We already have examples of the countries which have gone down this route, among them United States itself. Far from controlling terrorism, its war on terror in Afghanistan and the Middle East have given us ISIS which now all the global powers together are struggling to defeat. Similarly, Israelis period intervention in Palestine, a territory with just a basic wherewithal of a state, has still not bought it peace. Instead, the conflict has only gotten worse by the day. What India, Pakistan need is a sustained engagement uninterrupted by the violence geared to finding a lasting solution to long festering issues.
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