|Ringing the panic bell|
Despite the calm at the Line of Control during the past one week, the war bugles from either side have not totally ended and panic has yet to subside at the borders as well as rest of Jammu and Kashmir, impacted the most by the escalation of hostilities between India and Pakistan. External affairs minister Salman Khurshid has reaffirmed the country’s commitment to peace process but his contention was that things have been sorted out at the military commanders level after the DGMOs of the two countries met. While the importance of this meeting cannot be underscored, it would be too preposterous to expect such meetings to have the potential of ensuring an enduring peace at the borders and undo the adverse impact of the recent scale of tensions and war mongering on both sides. For instance, the bus service and trade are yet to resume at the Poonch crossing point on the LoC.
The sports ties are hit and the musical and entertainment shows by Pakistani artistes stand unwisely cancelled. The expected visa relaxation regime starting with visa on arrival for senior citizens at Wagah has been put on hold indefinitely. The mandate of the DGMOs does not go beyond ensuring that no provocation takes place on either side. Besides, their engagement can neither pacify the voices of belligerence or panic, the most recent of which comes from a functionary of this state government.
Those at the helm of affairs need to take a much more serious view of how an advertisement issued by IGP Civil Defence on tips about nuclear war emerged and was released to a section of the print media in the Valley, creating unnecessary panic. The state government has chosen to remain silent over the issue which may as well be a case of unintended faux pas of a naive mind but it is for the government to probe whether there was also an element of mischief somewhere involved. However, in his defence, the IGP has maintained that the advertisement, lists do’s and dont’s, including digging basements, trenches and bunkers for safety, during nuclear war as part of normal routine awareness campaigns and equated the advertisement with one on earthquake awareness. Advertisements and publicity material for creating mass awareness is an important task before the government but only when it comes to pressing issues.
The earthquake, with Jammu and Kashmir’s several areas falling in a highly vulnerable seismic zone falls into an entirely different category. If awareness had to be created about disasters, there were more relevant and pressing things to focus on – like avalanches and fire incidents which are common threats in the valley and hilly areas of Jammu and Kashmir this season. The nuclear war threat advertisement is not only ill-timed in view of the recent tensions that the LoC skirmishes had invoked, it is also unwise and is something that needs no place as part of the routine even in the most peaceful times and should be considered a module only when there is an ongoing war or atleast an imminent threat of the same. Such exercises that vitiate the atmosphere with panic and unwanted rumour mongering require a much more serious response from the government than the simple silence that the government has evinced ever since the advertisement first appeared in a local newspaper.
This is important because not only do such ill-inconceived ventures create panic, they also undo the efforts being made by civil society on both sides of the borders including on the two sides of the divided Jammu and Kashmir for bringing some semblance of normalcy on the LoC. A joint India-Pakistan civil society initiative in Delhi recently has not only called for cessation of hostilities but also accelerating the process of moving forward with other CBMs including creation of demilitarized zones on the LoC, which can be achievable through greater co-operation of militaries on both sides. Such measures need better diplomatic ties and negotiations at the higher level. So, does the issue of finding out the genesis of the recent skirmishes, without the unreasonable show of allegations and counter allegations, in a bid to prevent such hostilities to appropriate the peace constituency, and eventually take us further away from peace process in the South Asian region and the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.