There is dire need for the sub-continent to shift focus from war frenzy and political harvesting of military actions towards dialogue and negotiations for peace.
The spurt in incidents of ceasefire violations on the borders and the Line of Control after the Balakot strikes is a cause of concern, signaling that unwanted clouds of war continue to hover between India and Pakistan, two nuclear neighbours. The army has officially come out with a statistic of 513 ceasefire violations in the last one and a half months, including 100 times when Pakistan used heavy weaponry like mortars and artillery guns targeting civilian areas. This is a definite jump from border hostilities witnessed last year. 2018 witnessed 2936 incidents, which itself was a three-fold increase in the ceasefire violations along the international border and the Line of Control. The casualties in 2018 included 61 deaths and 250 injured.
If the hostilities on the borders continue to rise at such a rate, it signals a worrisome trend and is also a grim reminder of the failed muscular strategy that the government is trying to pursue with respect to its largest neighbour Pakistan. The figures only give an indication of the physical casualties suffered by soldiers and border villagers, and do not reflect on the massive upheaval they cause to the lives of lakhs of people living on the borders. Their houses are damaged in shelling, their livestock is lost, their livelihoods are shattered as constant shelling limits their access to their agricultural fields in largely agrarian areas and many of them are subject to repeated displacements with no adequate policy of relief and rehabilitation. The plight of these people reeling under day to day shelling invites concern. Besides, neither Pakistan, nor India can afford to be at war, specially in view of the nuclear option. The manner in which Narendra Modi is using the border discourse, war and Balakot strikes for his election campaigning, much in violation of model code of conduct, generates doubts whether the action was more inspired by political expediency than strategic necessity.
He has been engaged in a lot of chest thumping, labouring hard to maintain that the strikes were aimed at putting an end to the repeated offensives by Pakistan and its trouble-making. However, the glaring statistics itself are a reflection of the abject failure of Balakot action, the surgical strikes before that or any low-key war as a tool for ending hostile climate between the two countries and cross-border shelling that has seen a phenomenal increase in the last five years.
Interestingly, the war-frenzy being used by Modi appears to have back-fired on his face with Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan betting that Modi’s victory is important for better peace prospects between India and Pakistan. It is a sad comment on the level of politics of war-frenzy, hatred and hostilities on borders are thought of as crucial elements for winning election. This is also a sad comment on the level of democratic process that should be pivoted around development issues, economy and representatives. Far from freeing electoral politics from war frenzy, 2019 finds the two inter-twined with each other, under-scoring the need for both changing the course of such politics as well as for ushering peace in the region. Whatever be the outcome of the elections, dialogue and negotiations are the only way forward. The only way that peace can be ensured between India and Pakistan is by taking the road of dialogue, negotiations and conciliation. The best dividends of peace in the sub-continent were yielded when a composite dialogue was in place at the beginning of the millenium and held out for a few years. The process of peace was snapped mid-way because of lack of commitment and seriousness on behalf of New Delhi and Islamabad. That process needs to be restored and carried to its logical conclusion with the conscious understanding that peace processes are not short processes but long drawn ones and needed to be guided and nurtured by maturity, patience and commitment.