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India - Pakistan: Blame game, retaliation will lead to a vicious cycle of violence threatening human lives on both sides

9 October 2014

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(Editorial from Indian and Pakistani newspapers and links to URLs from a wide number of sources]

Kashmir Times (India), October 8, 2014

Lethal borders
Blame game, retaliation will lead to a vicious cycle of violence threatening human lives on both sides

The gruesome killings of five persons by the Pakistani forces on the borders is tragic, shocking and condemnable. Equally shocking are the four deaths caused by the Indian forces on the other side of the border. Besides the poor timing of the escalated hostilities, in view of the ongoing crisis in Jammu and Kashmir in the aftermath of the recent floods, the manner in which civilians on the two sides are becoming easy and sitting ducks in the retaliatory firing exchanged between Indian and Pakistani armies as well as the BSF and the Pakistani Rangers in most reprehensible. Both sides, as usual, have blamed each other and none is willing to take up any onus except for doling out the traditional responses of assurances in words like ’giving a befitting response to the unprovoked firing from the other side’. This vicious cycle is costing the lives and livelihood of the people dearly as reports in both the Indian and Pakistani media talks about villages being vacated and civilians being forced to flee in the way the firing has unfolded. This has happened in the past as well and it may be time to question why the panic buttons have not been pressed yet and why serious efforts have not been made to de-escalate the hostilities through amicable means since retaliation, that may sound militaristically heroic, only ends up fueling more violence. Is it just pure coincidence that such hostilities throw up a pattern where soldiers become the casualty in retaliation to killing of a soldier and civilians a target in retaliation to killing of civilians? Though there is no empirical evidence to show targeted these killings on Monday were but it is common knowledge for people living in the border areas to easily distinguish between a picket and security installation on the other side and a village, distinguish between army men in civvies and the locals on the other side. It is then hardly likely that the men pressing the trigger on the two sides of the border are oblivious of such simple differences. If indeed there is method in this madness, it is a shocking revelations of the manner in which heroic militarism allows civilian lives to become vulnerable.

The present casualties have happened in the backdrop of almost a week long series of ceasefire violations along the International Border and the Line of Control. Indian army has maintained that unprovoked firing was started by the Pakistani side and even if that be the case and security of the borders is vital, the answer to end the ongoing lethal jinx cannot lie in simple retaliations of equal magnitude without taking recourse to existing mechanisms of flag meetings, hotlines and sorting out the issue. Obviously, such madness is not totally unprovoked as it stands to serve the vested interests of some. Such vested interests exist on both sides of the border. For the Pakistani army and the establishment, dealing with the inherent weaknesses of their political sphere and the ghosts of the multiple dilemmas within the country today, it may be cheap way to deflect issues whether or not the direct aim is to send in infiltrators. On the Indian side, while India versus Pakistan hostilities can be a saleable commodity in terms of vote bank politics for some, they also serve the economic interests of those who are likely to feed on the increased spending on defence sector and the opening of foreign direct investment in this sector. The last time, the hostilities increased when the newly elected BJP government announced a hike in FDI in defence sector. This time, it comes close on the heels of the Indian prime minister include the defence sector in global investments with heads of USA and Israel, both of which are hugely investing in India’s defence sector. Whatever be the genesis of the ongoing spate of violence at the borders, the fact remains that while handful of persons with vested interest are benefitting, it are the people on the two sides, especially those living on the borders who are suffering the most. As for the casualties of the soldiers on the two sides, that is equally an irreparable loss. The answer therefore lies in leaderships on the two sides taking the initiative to broker a truce if the militaries on both sides are incapable of doing so.

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Daily Times (Pakistan) - October 09, 2014

Cross-border firing intensifies

Shelling across the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan has intensified to dangerous levels over the past few days. On Monday Pakistani and Indian forces traded fire along the Sialkot Working Boundary and the Jammu, Poonch and Samba districts along the LoC. Pakistani Rangers said they responded to “unprovoked” Indian shelling on Monday while Indian Border Security Force (BSF) personnel say they believe that Pakistani forces are providing cover fire for militants to infiltrate into India. By Wednesday 12 civilians had been killed on the Pakistani side, while on the Indian side eight people have been killed and 50 injured in the latest round of violence. Both sides report that a telephone conversation between the respective Deputy Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) ended with them hurling accusations at each other while India has so far refused Pakistani requests for a flag meeting made on the night of October 7. Indian forces have been told to reject any offer of talks at the border until all firing across the LoC stops. Reports say that India targeted 73 Pakistani border posts while Pakistan has targeted 47 Indian border posts; both sides claim to have given a “befitting response”. Shelling and skirmishes on the LoC have increased steadily over the summer. Reports say that there were 63 violations of the ceasefire in October alone, while there have been as many as 209 violations this year. Indian military officials say they believe that up to 700 militants are preparing to infiltrate along different areas of the LoC and that they have killed 17 militants over the last three days.
The way these exchanges have historically worked over the last two decades is that Pakistan shells Indian positions to distract Indian security forces from militant infiltration into Kashmir. India responds with more enthusiasm than is necessary and targets Pakistani civilians, which then leads to more intense shelling from both sides. Militants end up infiltrating, the Indian armed forces get to look tough and everything goes back to normal. Shelling along the LoC is virtually a routine. However, the recent escalation has come in the wake of political changes on both sides of the border. In Pakistan the military has allegedly managed to wring key concessions from the civilian government including reportedly a change in policy towards India. Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif has a longstanding policy of normalising relations. However, the weakness of his position was made evident in his speech to the UN General Assembly, which presented hackneyed clichés about resolving the Kashmir issue according to UN resolutions instead of presenting a credible and modern picture of Pakistan’s stance. Indian PM Narendra Modi is widely seen as a hawk on Kashmir and his government’s stated position is a claim to the whole of Kashmir including areas under Pakistani control. Though this is seen as aimed at a domestic audience, Mr Modi has been willing to back it up with action. His government insists that the issue must be resolved bilaterally but at the same time cancelled secretary level talks in August aimed at kickstarting the faltering peace process. Along with a series of diplomatic snubs, such as refusing to meet Nawaz Sharif at the UN, this has fed a perception that the Modi government is unwilling to resolve the issue. Though infiltrating militants into Kashmir has never fully stopped, if efforts are intensifying that may be a result of this perception and will be aimed at either getting the Indian government to change its stance — unlikely at best — or force the issue into the international eye again. Either way is self-defeating since military solutions cannot work in a nuclear-armed region, while Pakistan lacks the developmental and diplomatic credentials to push its position multilaterally. Unlike in the past where better sense has prevailed, with a religious nationalist government in power in India and with Pakistan’s domestic security and political situation so fragile, the potential for any conflict to spiral out of control is high. Both sides need to remember that and put an end to this dangerous escalation. *

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Dawn (Pakistan), October 09, 2014

Editorial: Civilians in the crossfire

THE escalating violence between Pakistan and India along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary in the disputed Kashmir region has, as ever, murky origins.

India blames Pakistan, Pakistan blames India; meanwhile, the worst sufferer is the civilian population on either side of the divide.

More lives have been lost and with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reduced to urging India and Pakistan to resolve their disputes diplomatically and through dialogue, there is a very real fear that more violence could result in more lives lost in the days ahead. With the blame game continuing and with few independent sources to verify how violence broke out, there is though a sense that both sides are determined not to back down — though it is difficult to see why either side would want the conflict to spiral out of control.

For Pakistan, conflict in Kashmir cannot militarily be a goal at this juncture with the North Waziristan operation ongoing and strains on military resources because of overall troop commitments in Fata.

For India, with the Narendra Modi-led BJP government in Delhi eyeing gains in elections in India-held Jammu and Kashmir scheduled for November-December, prolonged conflict should not be part of a winning electoral strategy.

Yet, logic often does not work as it should in this most disputed of regions and, occasionally, events in Kashmir are tied to wider struggles that Pakistan and India may be engaging in. Consider that the Modi government has taken a decidedly tough line with Pakistan despite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wanting to pursue dialogue while simultaneously struggling with civil-military issues at home.

The rapturous tone of the recent visit by Mr Modi to the US may have encouraged the Indian security establishment to pile further pressure on Pakistan. Meanwhile, on the Pakistan side, that very tone of Mr Modi’s visit and the successful inclusion of Pakistan-specific militancy concerns in the joint US-India statement may have rankled, and sections of the security establishment here may have decided that India, and the world at large, needs reminding that the Kashmir dispute is still very much alive and a flashpoint that should invite international attention.

The path to military de-escalation at least remains well-known. Purposeful and result-orientated contact between the directors general of military operations of Pakistan and India can help dampen the violence along the LoC and the Working Boundary — but will the two countries decide to activate that option themselves, or will the international community have to put pressure behind the scenes?

The approaching winter — while still distant in the present context — should also help dampen hostilities, though it remains to be seen if the elections will be held on time or postponed until the new year after an ongoing visit to Jammu and Kashmir by the Election Commission of India. As ever, little can be said with certainty on Kashmir.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014



The above editorials from Kashmir Times, Daily Times and Dawn are reproduced here for educational and non commercial use