Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Business Recorder editorial May 24, 2017

Pakistan-India tensions COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa told the 75th conference of Annual Formation Commanders at GHQ on May 23 about the high state of operational readiness and morale of troops during his recent visits to front line field formations along the country’s eastern and western borders, especially displayed in response to recent border and ceasefire violations. He said notwithstanding Pakistan’s desire for an enduring peace with its neighbours, any hostile action anywhere along the country’s frontiers would be responded befittingly. Those words reflected events on the Line of Control (LoC) on the day. DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor issued a statement the same day refuting as baseless and misleading an Indian claim that their forces had destroyed Pakistani military posts in Azad Kashmir. He stated that none of the posts along the LoC in the Nowshera sector had been destroyed in shelling from across the LoC, nor had the Pakistani forces targeted civilians on the other side, both claims made just hours before by a spokesman of the Indian army in New Delhi. ISPR further clarified that it was the Indian army that had resorted to an unprovoked ceasefire violation on May 13, which had caused civilian casualties and infrastructure damage on our side. A stern response caused substantial losses to soldiers and material on the Indian side. So the exchange of ‘pleasantries’ on the LoC continues. Are Pakistan and India condemned to live forever in hostility? Not according to Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit, who said in an interview with an Indian newspaper that Kashmir was the real bone of contention between the two neighbouring countries and there could be no shying away from settling the issue. The necessary condition for such a settlement, he underlined, was that the two countries restart their suspended dialogue. Certainly the logic is impeccable, since both countries are now nuclear armed and all out war is thereby precluded for fear of mutual destruction. However, Abdul Basit also referred in the same interview to the situation on the western border with Afghanistan, which has seen a ratcheting up of tensions and even exchanges of firing of late. The unfortunate fact is that the Pakistan-India rivalry has spilled over onto Afghan soil, where both countries are vying for influence and Pakistan accuses India of utilising Pakistan’s differences with Kabul to stoke conflict on the western border. While the criticality of talks between Pakistan and India is beyond doubt, the present prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, is no Vajpayee, who expended considerable political capital on trying to normalise relations with Pakistan. Mr Modi may be motivated in his aggressive stance towards Pakistan by domestic political considerations. Amongst these can be counted upcoming State elections (in West Bengal in particular) and the unremitting uprising in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK). The latter may have in fact more bearing on the hotting up of the LoC in recent days. The Indian army’s violations of the ceasefire on the LoC may be an attempt to ‘externalise’ the Kashmir problem, but the indigenous nature of the Kashmiri people’s resistance is hard to deny. The Indian army spokesman’s news briefing referred to above argued that the shelling across the LoC on Pakistani military posts was to prevent them harbouring and facilitating infiltrators into IHK. But no one familiar with the situation on the ground inside IHK can possibly ignore the daily fare of Kashmiri youth combating the unrestrained use of maximum force by the India security forces with nothing more deadly than stones being thrown. The Kashmiri people have shown the world that no amount of overwhelming force has managed to quell their desire for freedom from the Indian yoke. It remains for the Indian political class, and particularly the present incumbents in New Delhi, to open their eyes to reality and recognise that there is no military solution for Kashmir’s pain and that what is needed badly is an uninterrupted and uninterruptible dialogue process.

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