Border on Edge

At a time when India and Pakistan are battling the outbreak of coronavirus on a nationwide scale, the cross-LoC skirmishes have continued unabated. On Sunday, three civilians including an 8-year-old boy died along the LoC in Kupwara. This shows many shells have landed in civilian areas. Fresh ceasefire violations have started in Tangdhar and Karnah sectors.and Anil posts. Earlier, Indian army had said that it responded to the Pakistani ceasefire violation and had destroyed terror launch pads, ammunition dumps etc on the Pakistani side of the LoC.

Pakistan, on othe other hand, has reported one civilian death and one injury in the LoC firing. Days ago, five soldiers and five militants had lost their lives in a hand to hand combat in Operation Randori Behak in Keran sector. The operation was the biggest in Kashmir since the revocation of Article 370 in Kashmir in August last. Security forces haven’t suffered such a huge loss in an encounter in a long time. Also, the encounter took place at a time when militancy in Kashmir had been giving all indications of being in retreat.

These developments are fraught with implications for the immediate future, more so, for the summer ahead. There is a possibility that the skirmishes can escalate into a bigger confrontation. The bitterness between the neighbours now runs deeper than before. The leaders of the two countries have now even given up the pretense of showing interest in the engagement thus abdicating their responsibility towards peace in the region. This has let the violence take the centre stage again.

This is deeply troubling and doesn’t bode well for the future. The escalating trend of the violent border exchanges over the recent years 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 neighbours, enabling them 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 alongside the continuing break in engagement, there is little hope that the situation will improve. And if left unaddressed, things can only go from bad to worse and possibly lead to dangerous consequences. More so, in the wake of the post 5/8 when New Delhi revoked the Article 370 that granted J&K its semi-autonomous status within Indian Union.

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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