The brutal killing of five Indian soldiers by Pakistani army at Poonch along the Line of Control late on Monday night has once again derailed its halting peace process with India. The attack comes six months after some of the worst violence along the LOC in the decade since the ceasefire was established in 2003. It is obvious that Pakistan is taking the accusations leveled by India – that of beheadings of its soldiers (in January this year), warmongering, infiltration and incursions, late-night raids on LoC – way too lightly and is doing nothing to stop the transgressions from within its borders.
The latest spurt of violence completely undoes the efforts made by the respective prime ministers of the two countries, Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif, towards restarting the peace talks, and the duo are scheduled to meet in September this year on the sidelines of the UN General assembly in New York. However, it appears that the endeavours from the leaders have been already put on the dock, with yet another serious breach of trust from the Pakistani side. With Parliament suspended in wake of shootings and the political spectrum demanding an answer from the Congress-led UPA government over its lopsided policy on Pakistan, it is clear that the days ahead are going to be turbulent as far as the Indo-Pak relations are concerned.
In fact, Pakistan has repeatedly sneered at India’s overtures to establish normalcy and peace between the two states, particularly under the aegis of PM Singh, and history is witness to the fact that everytime the governments have taken steps towards bridging the widening gap between the two countries, incidents of mindless violence have sent the process back by several notches.
While reports are pouring in that a group of heavily armed team of terrorists and Pakistani troops ambushed the Indian soldiers who were patrolling the LOC, what needs to be noted is that beyond a point, it is becoming increasingly difficult for India to distinguish between the violent activities of the insurgents and the military, over both of which the beleaguered Pak government seems to have virtually no control.
There is an unbelievable gap between the official, quasi-pacifist line adopted by the Pakistani state and the heedless, openly aggressive behaviour of the army, let alone the insurgents within country. The escalation of violence to such a level calls for both diplomatic and political damage control, and not just airing of politically correct and horrified reactions that are empty of actual substance. Moreover, India needs to build pressure through diplomatic channels and foreign policy initiatives to scale down the level of militancy with its terrorism-infested neighbour, because the spillover is wreaking tremendous havoc on our side of the border. The recent attacks in Jalalabad, embassies in Kabul and now on this side of the LOC point towards the sheer disregard that Pakistan is throwing at not only reinitiating the Indo-Pak peace process, but also in consolidating a relatively stable Afghanistan, even as counselor talks are going on with negotiators from Washington and representatives of the Taliban outfits.
Yet, the attack in Poonch might be a sign that much remains to be desired in putting on track the peace process and that even hoping for it might just be an exercise in self-delusion. Nevertheless, the government’s attitude to the whole episode appears to be that of an ostrich’s that simply buries its head in the sand hoping for the storm to pass over without causing any damage at all. Needless to say, India needs a strong Af-Pak policy and this is the time to hammer it out.