Between hype and reality

Present atmosphere of hostility can be turned into an opportunity for initiating dialogue for peace

Unless New Delhi and Islamabad have the capability of rising above the haze of confusion raised by the din over recent border incidents, from the Line of Control in Tangdhar to the blown-up boat in the Arabian sea, the sub-continent is poised for fresh trouble which may be difficult to resolve if petty politicking is allowed to obfuscate truth and ugly band of jingoism allowed to replace a sense of reason. There are different shades of confrontation, rights from the hills separated by the Line of Control to the Arabian sea, all rending ominous signals. While the easiest thing to do would be to exacerbate the levels of chauvinism and demonise the other, it will not get both India and Pakistan anywhere but closer to major confrontation and war frenzy, in ways that are more lethal than 2001. Pragmatism and interests of peace, however, require that each issue be dealt with a degree of patience and through dialogue between both sides. To fathom whether there is a link between the various incidents of hostility, there would be need to go beyond the local military level talks for New Delhi and Islamabad to turn this present spate of hostility into an opportunity for initiating a dialogue beginning with exchange of information on these recent happenings.

Clearly, the hype created on this side over threat to security of the borders through loyalist media that fails to ask pertinent questions or offers a one-sided picture seeks to undermine the truth and mislead the nation. All these recent incidents are mired in mystery. In Tangdhar, where claims were first made that two jawans were killed in firing from across the Line of Control, mystery has deepened with reports pointing to the forest fires in the area in which the Indian army was engaged in fighting. As yet, there is also no credible statement from the official circles that has been made regarding the Samba episode of firing which Pakistan has alleged to be a fraudulent way of inviting unarmed Rangers for a flag meeting and later shooting them down. Reports have also picked holes in the terror plot theory of the boat set ablaze in the Arabian sea on several counts. They suggest while there were intelligence reports of some smuggling transaction, there were no in-puts about a terror plot which should have put the Navy on the alert and also alerted the various harbours along the Arabian sea. It was only the Coast Guard that responded to the inputs and stand accused of use of disproportionate use of firing on the boat that is said to have refused to obey the commands.

The small vessel did not have the caliber to out-do the Indian interceptors and weather reports for the area did not show inclement conditions, as the hyped reports revealed initially, but clear skies. Fishermen associations on both sides have also expressed apprehensions that the boat may have been carrying fishermen who may have gone astray and were at the end of the day only trying to eke out a living. There is a clear mis-match of statements not only between India and Pakistan but also on the Indian side where officials have been found to contradict each other. Amidst this mist of confusing statements and war frenzy, sight cannot lost of the fresh reports of Hafeez Saeed men waiting to cross-over from Sialkot and in striking contrast the protests by Shiromani Akali Dal over the BSF failure to check drug smuggling from the borders. Is there a larger link between the drug cartels, recent bouts of hostility and terror plot theories? It is important to unravel the truth rather than justify the rising scale of violence that has the potential of setting the sub-continent on fire or atleast push it into a realm of cold hostility that would ultimately be detrimental to the interests of peace.