De-escalation of Tensions along the Pakistan-India Divide

Pakistan-India border tension is again on fire. Last month saw heavy exchanges of fire from both countries targeting border posts along the Line of Control and the International Border. The fierce cross-border duels, which have caused civilian casualties on both sides, even led UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to ask India and Pakistan to resolve their issues diplomatically through dialogue.

The blame game continues and no one is accepting censure for initiating the fire. Each side blames the other for shooting first. Both are following a “Coercive Diplomacy” tool by which each party is trying to play down the position of the other. It is not only the firing on border but also firing of words. The BJP ruling party President, Mr. Amit Shah recently stated: “Earlier also there was firing from across the border and now also there is firing from across the border. Earlier, Pakistan used to start and also finish the firing. Now, Pakistan starts the firing but it is the Indian military which finishes it.” On the other hand, adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Sartaj Aziz said in a statement: “Pakistan government has been exercising utmost restraint and responsibility… Unfortunately, all our efforts to secure peace and tranquility on the Line of Control and the Working Boundary have elicited no cooperation from the Indian side.”

In December last year, Pakistan and India had pledged to uphold the 2003 LoC ceasefire accord which had been left in tatters by repeated violations that year. The truce breaches had put the nascent bilateral peace dialogue on hold. The directors general of military operations (DGMOs) of the two countries had agreed to a number of steps to keep the ceasefire accord intact. The meeting had taken place on the initiative of the political leadership of the two countries for ending tensions along the LoC. Ceasefire violations along the LoC and working boundary between Pakistan and India continue intermittently, with casualties reported on both sides.

India is supposedly a rising economy. It is going on the right path for securing an increasing GNP. However, international economics says that these border skirmishes risk negative economic impacts that could hamper India’s dream of becoming a regional economic giant.

Pakistan also has a growing but shabby economy. However, the rise of terrorism and its front-line role in the War on Terror has already harmed its economy significantly. Needless to say, border tension with India will further jeopardize Pakistan’s efforts to recover its fragile economy.

Border clashes like these have taken the two countries to the brink of war. Either war happens as was the case in the past or it limits itself to only skirmishes. However, the damage it inflicts to the peace process between the two countries is immense and irreparable. It takes the two nations back to square one. Thus a persistent trust deficit occupies the place during and after a meager peace effort.

The border clash between the two countries is not a good omen especially when the civil-military relations in Pakistan are in doldrums. It is alleged that the Dharna Politics in Pakistan is supported by a few “Good Men.” The difference of response between the PM’s speech and the ISPR’s press briefing over the meeting of Dharna leaders and the COAS also reflects a poor coordination of relationship between the Civil and Military top men. Thus a quick and swift end to such border skirmishes will bring to an end the growing gulf between our leadership.

We need to understand the shifting policy in the region. The United States is packing up in the back drop of the establishment of a National Unity government in Afghanistan after troubled elections. Moreover, President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan has signed the Bilateral Security Agreement according to which some US forces will remain stationed in Afghanistan even after major withdrawal of ISAF forces. This may result in more attacks by the Afghan Taliban on the residual US forces thereby encouraging the Pakistani Taliban to follow the path. Similarly, with the withdrawal of the US forces, the militants might turn their guns towards Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). Thus the need of the time is peace and India’s closer cooperation with Pakistan. Cancelling talks with Pakistan just because the Pakistan’s High Commission had a meeting with the leadership of IOK does not make any sense and in the circumstances, sanity must prevail.

The chief of India’s border security force, D. K. Pathak, in a statement said, “Islamic militants were gathering on the Pakistani side, waiting for the chance to cross into India. And this cross-border shelling was providing them a cover to sneak into Indian Territory.”  However, because the territory is flat and bare, it is an unfavorable crossing-point for guerrilla fighters if any such move exists. From the point of view of international terrorism studies, the terrorists will like to find an area that is dense jungle and dark. Moreover, India has already erected a double fence equipped with sound detectors, and the border is illuminated after dark.

Peace must be given a chance. It is not that there must be peace in the region but that India and Pakistan need peace for tranquility and economic growth of their own countries respectively. Good and peaceful neighbors mean stronger countries and prosperous nations.


Image: Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Flickr

Posted in , India, India-Pakistan Relations, Kashmir, LoC, Pakistan, Security

Syed Hussain Shaheed Soherwordi

Syed Hussain Shaheed Soherwordi is an Associate Professor with the University of Peshawar, following a career as researcher and teacher of International Relations, Conflict Resolution, Political Science and Creative Leadership. He completed his M. Phil and PhD from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He remained fellow of Fulbright, Carnegie, Charles Wallace, Higher Education Commission (HEC), and Edinburgh University. He has been teaching at the Fulbright Commission, Bulgaria for the last five years, where his teaching and training concerns peace and conflict resolution during the 21st century especially in the conflict zones like FATA (Pakistan), Afghanistan, and the Middle East. Dr. Soherwordi has written more than thirty four research papers on India, Pakistan, Tribal Areas of Pakistan, War on Terror, Afghanistan, Pak-US relations, Conflict Resolution and the application of strategies to the prevention of terrorism and amelioration of counter-terrorism. His forthcoming books are on “Pak-US relations: A Comparative Study during Cold War and War on Terror” and “Pakistan, Taliban and the War on Terror.” Dr Soherwordi has consulted for numerous foundations and government agencies on subjects like governance, local government, police reforms, education policy, federalism and decentralization. He is a visiting professor at the Command and Staff College, Quetta, National Institute of Management (NIM) Peshawar and National School of Public Policy (NSPP), Lahore. He is also member of the editorial board of ‘the Exemplar,’ a journal of South Asian Studies in California, United States. Currently, Dr Soherwordi is heading ‘Cell for FATA Studies,’ a think tank situated at the University of Peshawar, Pakistan.

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