Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif on Wednesday warned India of “unbearable damage” in the event of a war and that his troops are ready to tackle any long or short misadventure by the “enemy”. The remarks were in response to Indian Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag who said last week that Indian Army was prepared for “swift, short nature of future wars”, in the event of constant cross-border violations by the other side. Before one dwells on the nature of such comments, a little context is required. General Sharif’s comments were made on the 50th anniversary of the 1965 war with India. In the recent past, there has been much debate about whether India truly secured anything from the war, besides pushing Pakistani forces back to their soil.
Besides remembering the incredible sacrifices made by soldiers on both sides, war anniversary celebrations present an opportunity to raise the temperature of nationalistic fervor. Unfortunately, the recent statements made by army chiefs on both sides reek of chest-thumping nationalism of the worst kind. Neither side can afford a war at this stage nor should anyone talk of it exist in the public domain. More importantly, such talk comes at a time when New Delhi and Islamabad have decided to go ahead with the Directors-General level talks for the forces managing their respective borders. Ceasefire violations in Jammu and Kashmir, including sniper attacks, infiltration, intrusion in Rann of Kutch and smuggling are among the key issues India is expected to raise with Pakistan during the DG level talks between Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers from September 9. New Delhi’s agenda for the talks has put extra stress on the “most important” issue of breach of ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir which has led to loss of lives of civilians and troops and “unprovoked” firing by the Rangers along the International Border.
There is no denying that Islamabad and New Delhi’s flip-flops over the years have largely created the present stalemate in the two countries relations. After fighting three wars, it has been a case of one step forward, two steps back. The Ufa agreement between Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif signaled another attempt to settle all issues between the two countries. However, it is Pakistan’s misfortune that whenever New Delhi and Islamabad took initiatives for peace and reconciliation between the two countries -Ufa being the latest- Pakistan’s powerful army’s bosses sabotaged these attempts. The Modi government’s flip-flops on its Pakistan policy have also contributed to the stalemate in the reconciliatory process. It had canceled the two countries Foreign Secretaries scheduled meeting a day before it was to be held protesting against the Pakistan High Commissioner’s plan to hold discussions with the Hurriyat leaders. In the past, India never objected to Pakistani officials holding talks with its representatives. Therefore, New Delhi should have had no objection with the High Commissioner holding talks with Hurriyat leaders. Plus, the Hurriyat separatists remain a non-entity in the larger scheme of things. The same charade had played out before the cancelation of NSA-level talks. Recent comments by the army chiefs on both sides have presented an inauspicious precursor to the DG-level talks. However, one does hope that such comments do not overshadow the DG-level talks.