Think Beyond Border Bunkers

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Government has recently started reviewing the progress on construction of bunkers along Line of Control International Border in Jammu and Kashmir. Last week, divisional commissioner, Jammu, Sanjeev Verma chaired a meeting with deputy commissioners of border districts in Jammu division to seek details from them about the work.  He was informed that a total of 5259 bunkers had been completed in the division. This includes, 4786 individual bunkers and 473 community bunkers. The DCs also informed Verma that the remaining bunkers in the division were under different stages of construction of foundation, superstructure and plinth level.

Similarly, there hasn’t been adequate progress on the bunkers along the LoC in Kashmir Valley, even though the lieutenant Governor Girish Chander Murmu has called for expediting such work. These bunkers are being well equipped with a toilet facility and a kitchen. In a community bunker, 5 families comprising 20 members can be accommodated in each bunker. Border dwellers have also been demanding 5 marla plots in a peaceful area for emergency evacuation during border tension.

Though J&K Government had in 2015 submitted a proposal to the Centre for setting up of over 20,000 bunkers at a cost of over Rs. 1,000 crore in 448 border areas in the state, the implementation has taken a long time to fructify. And even now, people in the border areas more or less go shelterless whenever exchange of firing takes places along the border, and which is quite often. In fact, since the revocation of Article 370 the LoC firing has sharply escalated, leading to more misery for the border people.   So, in a sense, even the underground bunkers along the border are hardly a solution for the recurrent ceasefire violations. The escalating trend of these violent border exchanges is yet another proof that the 2003 ceasefire agreement which held strong for close to a decade is now forgotten.  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 at the time was close to a breakthrough on Kashmir.

But with return of the frequent border eruptions with a vengeance, the situation is threatening to escalate to a serious conflict. 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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