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Bite the bullet

Stanly Johny | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on October 10, 2014

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Only talks will resolve the border wrangle

The ongoing border tension between India and Pakistan shows the limitation of showmanship in diplomacy. When Narendra Modi invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony, there was optimism bilateral ties between the two nations would improve. On the contrary, though, relations began to slide. The Modi government cancelled the planned foreign secretary level talks in August after Pakistan’s envoy in New Delhi met Kashmiri separatist leaders. Ever since, the Indo-Pak border has hardly remained calm, endangering the 11-year ceasefire that survived even the 2008 Mumbai attack.

In the latest round of skirmishes, at least 17 people from both sides have already been killed, a hundred more injured and thousands had to flee their homes. Both sides blame each other for starting the scuffle.Pakistan has many reasons to continue the border provocations. “Generally firing is to give cover and distract Indian security forces when infiltrators are planning to cross the LoC as they want to cross before it snows,” says Arun Vishwanathan, assistant professor at Bangalore’s National Institute of Advanced Studies. Heightened tension with India will also strengthen the Pakistani army’s position in that country’s complex power dynamics. On the other hand, the Indian military’s response indicates a relatively hardline position this time.

Assuming that nobody in New Delhi wants a full-blown war, India may be aiming for limited escalation, like the Vajpayee government did during the Operation Parakram in 2001-03. But a limited escalation is potentially dangerous as it could slip out of control any time, especially when it’s between two nuclear powers that have already fought three wars. Besides, it could kill the ceasefire, which is clearly not in India’s interests. So it isbest for India to engage with Pakistan’s civilian leadership, and raise the country’s concerns through a peaceful channel. But for that to happen, talks have to be resumed.

(Stanly Johny is Assistant Editor)

Correction : The year of Operation Parakram has been changed from 2011-13 to 2001-03

Published on October 10, 2014
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