Our different ways
A case in point is the current tension between India and Pakistan that has again escalated without any palpable justification. Thanks to our peculiar ways, both countries are playing their usual blame game. Pakistan maintains that its forces retaliated in response to ‘unprovoked shelling’ and Indian aggression, while India maintains the exact opposite. Unfortunately, those who have suffered have nowhere to turn. As Dawn noted in its editorial (‘Civilians in the crossfire’, October 9, 2014): “India blames Pakistan, Pakistan blames India; meanwhile, the worst sufferer is the civilian population on either side of the divide.” According to the BBC, this is the “biggest escalation in violence in the Kashmir region in years”. At least 19 people have lost their lives on both sides of the border, while dozens have been injured.
While these clashes go on, everyone – be it political parties, media, military – has gone an extra hawkish mile. From leaders of the Congress party and others in India settling scores with the ruling BJP to opposition parties in Pakistan trying to embarrass the PML-N government, we can see the height of political opportunism in both countries. Defence ministers of India and Pakistan have also been entangled in a war of words. The media on both sides, too, has turned nationalism into jingoism. Under normal circumstances, one would have been amused at reports in the Indian media that our troops fired at the Indian security forces due to Pakistan’s loss to India in the Asian Games hockey final. But, things are not normal, as 19 innocent people have died so far and a futile border conflict goes on despite a ceasefire agreement.
Many in Pakistan are bewildered as to why Pakistani forces would open its eastern border when it is heavily engaged in Operation Zarb-e-Azb on its western front. Some analysts believe that such an aggressive approach by the Indian security forces is because of the upcoming state elections in Haryana and Maharashtra, which the BJP is projected to be winning. Indians, on the other hand, think Pakistan wants to escalate tensions to give cover to its militants to cross over across the LoC. International pressure is also piling up on both countries to resolve the issue.
Frankly speaking, it is a moot point who fired the first shot as there is no independent source to confirm one side of the story or the other. Could we take pain to reconsider our ways of conducting state business and learn to live in a neighbourhood that is gratifying for both sides and not at each other’s expense? I have my doubts, since we are in the habit of living differently.
(Originally published in Mid-Day)