ENDLESS NIGHTMARE ON BORDERS

Election strategy or by default, the reckless brinkmanship between India and Pakistan needs to stop
The father of a soldier who lost his life in border firing in Rajouri has aptly posed a painful and jolting question to the Indian prime minister, ‘For how much longer would jawans fall prey to the mudslinging between India and Pakistan?’ Seven decades of hostile climate, wars and a Kashmir conflict have mounted a huge toll of soldiers and civilians. The recent brinkmanship since last month has further pushed the sub-continent into the throes of war. Even without one, the life of the people in the border areas has been turned into an endless nightmare with routine shelling and cross-border firing have accentuated their fears, sense of insecurity, panic and triggered displacements, besides human casualties, loss of property, livestock and destruction of houses. Soldiers are being fed into this hostility which is aimed at prolongation of stalemate and violence.

It is more than a decade since a serious bid to end the stalemate between India and Pakistan through amicable dialogue and negotiations fell through and subsequent attempts to pick up the threads from where they were left during the peace process years have not been able to sustain for long. In the last five years, the gulf has been widening without any such attempt in place barring some symbolic gestures, which could well be deemed as a case of building castles in the air. In already tense relations between two nuclear neighbours, such reckless brinkmanship that is presently unfolding between India and Pakistan is exacting a huge price on both the countries in terms of loss of human resource, valuable finances and shifting the focus from the more crucial development and economic needs. The recent developments have also put the air travel into disarray as Indian airliners and many others flying into India are trying to avoid the Pakistan air-space, incurring huge losses. Fresh news reports shed light into the far more serious threat of escalation than is visible on the ground. A news report by new agency Reuters pointed out that both sides last month threatened to use missiles against each other and that interventions by US officials including American National Security Adviser John Bolton finally cooled the frayed tempers to some extent. However, for the people being constantly fed into this theatre of hostility, normalcy is a far cry.

While strategic experts are still weighing whether the air-strikes by India yielded anything or enhanced the dangers to the country, yet another report in the Financial Express points out that India stationed INS Vikramaditya, INS Chakra, 60 ships, 80 aircraft in the Arabian Sea, along with 60 ships and 80 aircrafts, in operational mode in a bid to “send a stern message to Pakistan” as a prelude to the air-strikes, a month before the Pulwama attack. This optics of war games was recently seen going out of control and had it not been for intervention of the western powers, the sub-continent would well have headed for a major conflagration, the threats of which have not so far been warded off. While the necessity of display of air and naval readiness as a defense tactic is debatable, the timing of these exercises in run up to elections do raise an eye-brow. Is it merely a coincidence or a matter of design? The shameless manner in which the BJP is using India-Pakistan narrative as a crucial election strategy mocks at the tears of the people who have lost their lives to the recent spiral of hostilities. The lament of the soldier’s father will unfortunately fall on deaf ears of those trying to use the dead bodies as a tool to win elections. That should be the question pricking the conscience of the prime minister as well as rest of the nation.