Escalation of hostilities on borders, civilian casualties heighten possibility of war, divert attention from global fight against pandemic,

The escalation of violence on the Line of Control in the last few days, leading to several casualties on both sides is worrying and necessitates an end to the warring guns and trade of mortar shelling immediately. People on the borders are virtually becoming sitting ducks and being traded as trophies whenever the border hostilities spike up. This has been their fate for the last seven decades as they pay a price for the troubled relations between the two countries since 1947. The latest spurt in recent hostilities is a bigger cause of concern because this ill-timed adventurism comes at a time when the world is dealing with a major pandemic. Needless to point out that both India and Pakistan are ill-capacitated to deal with this major crisis adequately in view of their poor health infrastructure and the complexity of their socio-economic landscape.

Poverty and illiteracy on both sides is so rampant that they can ill-afford to divert their attention from the health concerns and issues of livelihoods of their teeming poor towards war and violence. Three people including a woman and a three-year-old child were killed in Handwara sector of North Kashmir on Sunday and Pakistan has claimed death of a four-year-old boy and injuries to four other civilians. The skirmishes at the LoC augment the sufferings of the people residing not just near the border areas, but eventually of the entire population of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State. If current tension at the borders is allowed to prolong, it will jeopardize the stability of the region and might escalate into an all-out war, diverting all attention from the war against Coronavirus. It also needs to be emphasized that continuation of violence provides more significant space to extremist, hawkish and fanatic elements in the society as well as empowers the war mongers on both sides.

The civilian casualties on both sides in the last one week are glaring and require the governments on both sides to sit up and take notice, while going beyond the typical blame game. With tensions on the Line of Control intermittently are on the rise since 2013, India has been accusing Pakistan of using the cover of firing to infiltrate terror operatives, it has also become increasingly aggressive in response. Shelling across the Line of Control has become disproportionate in size but there is nothing on evidence to show that such escalations have led to deterrence or minimization in infiltrations. It is also difficult to understand how civilian casualties and damage to their property can be treated as something of strategic worth. Such arguments have always stood on a weak wicket, more so at this juncture. Instead of repeating past mistakes, there is need for the political leadership in New Delhi and Islamabad to impress upon their respective militaries to bring an immediate end to this continuum of shelling and firing.

The two establishments must immediately use their hotlines and make all possible attempts to de-escalate the violence and work towards observing the sanctity of the 2003 ceasefire. This is especially desirable as the world is busy combating the deadly Covid-19. Recently, the UN Secretary General urged the world leaders to stop all armed conflicts amidst the pandemic. India and Pakistan are ignoring the significance of this call for peace which is aimed at focusing on the medical emergency rather than on politics of war, hate and vendetta, especially when innocent civilians are becoming cannon fodder.