Living upto his mandate António Guterres must mediate between the two South-Asian nuclear powers/The fears expressed by the concerned citizens and time and again articulated by opinion page writers in some newspapers seem ominously coming true. With war talk on high pitch and armies of the two important South-Asian nuclear powers at regular intervals trading fire, the entire 800 Kilometer long ceasefire line- the LoC and the Working Boundary has become a powder keg just a match stick away from turning into a full-fledged war. That obviously could be deadlier than all the wars fought by the two countries in the past.
Somedays back, I found a passionately written petition in my mail box appealing for ending tension on the line vivisecting our state. The petition from a journalist friend from Jammu was addressed to Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan. The appeal on behalf of the citizen of Jammu and Kashmir rightly ‘apprehend that the growing tension will intensify and augment the sufferings of the people residing not just near the border areas, but eventually of the entire Jammu and Kashmir.’ Moreover, it had rightly expressed concern ‘that if these tensions at the borders are allowed to prolong, it will jeopardies the stability of the region and it might turn into a full-scale war.’ Some prominent citizen of the State from both the sides of temporary line drawn by the United Nation Commission For India and Pakistan sixty nine years back had signed the appeal.
The alarming situation obtaining and developing on the LoC and the WB does not portend well for people of the sub-continent in general and citizens of Jammu and Kashmir in particular. On Friday, during past over three decades, it was for the first time when hundreds of the families living the near the dividing line (LoC) had to abandon their homes amidst exchange of gunfire between armies of the two countries. Similarly, such agonizing displacements have been a regular feature on the dividing line from Poonch to Jammu. Scores of civilians, men, women, and children, ‘like flies to wanton boys get killed for a sport’ in these avoidable skirmishes. If good sense does not prevail in Islamabad and New Delhi the escalating tension has the potential of graduating into another full-fledged war- this time with two countries having strong nuclear arsenals it could be more lethal than one could imagine. The two countries may not use the weapons of mass destruction but dangers of using non-strategic nuclear weapons may not hit in Islamabad and New Delhi but they could devastating for people living in the proximity of battle fields. The seventy years of war of attrition and four full-fledged wars that have bedevilled relations between the two capitals have very loud and clear message for leaders in the two countries that wars are no solution for ironing out the differences and resolving the disputes.
It may be or may not be palatable but it is a truism. That the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir may not have been directly the cause for all the four wars fought by the two countries but it has been at the fulcrum of every battle fought in the sub-continent. The wars between the two countries have followed a definite pattern: the escalation of tension on the Ceasefire Line/LoC, breakdown in diplomatic ties and a war. Every war has brought a third party mediation that caused cessation of hostilities, followed by diplomatic and summit meetings on Kashmir and other allied and outstanding issues.
In this column, it may not be possible to write in detail about the diplomatic and political engagements between the two countries that took place after the end of every war at the bidding of the UN or a third party intervention. Nonetheless, to illustrate my point it would be pertinent to mention some third party interventions briefly that brought New Delhi and Islamabad to the negotiating table. In response to New Delhi’s complaint, the UN Security adopted important resolutions in 1948 and 1949, these resolutions besides guaranteeing right to self-determination for people of J&K, devising a mechanism for holding a plebiscite also brought out a ceasefire between waring countries and instituted a mechanism for monitoring the ceasefire. After ensuring ceasefire between the two, it was at prodding of the comity of nations that Nehru and Liyaqat Ali Khan had a summit meeting for execution of the UN resolution. In 1953, summit meetings on Kashmir were again held between Nehru and Mohammad Ali Bogra on the intervention of Washington. In 1963, after the Sino-India war, it was again at the behest of Washington that India and Pakistan had six rounds of talks- again fruitless. In 1966, after the 1965 war on the insistence of the Soviet Union, India and Pakistan Prime Ministers met in Tashkent and a declaration was announced. The 1971, war in which Pakistan suffered a humiliating defeat and got dismembered again caused talks and Simla Accord. The Kashmir Dispute, was not cause of this war but during the talks, it was the subject over which almost entire dialogue revolved- in fact, Kashmir on which Pakistan wanted to eschew any discussion turned to be game of wits, with phrase “with out prejudice” in para 4 (II) changing the whole game. It was at the intervention of the President Clinton that the Kargil War that General V.P. Malik has described as ‘from surprise to victory’ ended. This war in keeping with the set pattern in India-Pakistan was followed by the Agra Summit. Notwithstanding, this summit meeting waterloo before its take off, and long military standoff it was for statesmanship of Vajpayee that in 2003, a ceasefire agreement was signed that survived 11 years. Thus gave respite to people living on both sides of the LoC.
In the given scenario, when there is no Vajpayees around and hawks have their say it is peaceniks and activist believing Indo-Pak amity in the two countries who have to rise to the occasion to see calm returning on the LoC and impress upon the two countries to enter into a dialogue for resolving the outstanding dispute and other allied problems. Nevertheless, the UN Secretary General, cannot afford to behave as an ostrich when citizen of Jammu and Kashmir are getting killed along the Ceasefire line. That owes its existence to the UN resolutions and with the UNMOGIP mandated to ensure peace on this line very much stationed on both the side. António Guterres needs to rise to the occasion to save over two million people living on the LoC from being consumed by mortar shells. Living upto his mandate he needs to mediate for resolving the disputes between the two South-Asian nuclear powers.