Pak and India Should Talk

ON Saturday, one army personnel lost his life while two others sustained injuries during an exchange of fire along the Line of Control in Nowgam sector of North Kashmir. The firing across the LoC has also taken place along the LoC in Poonch district. In fact, the LoC skirmishes have now become too routine to attract notice beyond a point. Recurrence of these exchanges has also been acknowledged by the defence ministry whose statements in Jammu and Srinagar indicate that the LoC has witnessed constant exchange of fire since June. Also, according to an estimate, first six months of this year have witnessed a 75 per cent spike in ceasefire violations along the LoC as compared to the corresponding period last year.

Incidentally, the recurrent tension along the LoC is being complemented by the stand-off with China along the Line of Actual Control. Recent days have witnessed a serious escalation in the situation with China. External affairs minister S Jaishankar has termed the situation in Ladakh “very very serious” that calls for “deep conversations at political level” to be addressed. Border with China and Pakistan makes up two-thirds of India’s total border and to have it come simultaneously alive at a time when the country is grappling with rising Covid-19 cases can be too much to handle for any country.

This calls for the situation to be handled with care. If left unaddressed, things could only go from bad to worse and possibly lead to dangerous consequences. And to start with, India could try and improve the relations with Pakistan. There is certainly 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 ongoing border skirmishes go on unchecked and escalate into a conflict along side the one going on with China.

True, the ruling BJP has invariably contended that even 70 years of the talks with Pakistan have not achieved any desired result, so there is no merit in the argument that the engagement would help. While the argument has some surface plausibility, it is specious. A dialogue will only succeed when the two sides engage in it meaningfully with an intention to resolve the lingering issues. But in case of India and Pakistan, the issues are so complex and the positions of both the countries are so rigid that each wants a solution on the maximalist terms possible. Result is the continuing hostility between the neighbours. The frequent exchange of firing along the borders in Kashmir and the consequent loss of lives is one of the most visible facets of it. And it is a tragedy. The people of India and Pakistan deserve better. More so, the people of Kashmir who have been at the receiving end of the seven decades of India, Pakistan hostility.

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