Positive development

Sunday afternoon’s chopper incident had some Indian observers on tenterhooks, waiting to hear the fate of the Indian military helicopter and its four crew members that strayed into Pakistani territory due to bad weather. Pakistan forced the Indian helicopter to land after it violated Pakistani airspace near Skardu. Pakistan promptly informed the Indian side of this incident. The crew was questioned, as is the standard operating procedure under such circumstances, for a few hours and was treated well. Military officials from both countries talked to each other and the issue was resolved amicably. The helicopter was refuelled by the Pakistan Army and flew back with the crew to India the same evening. “We are relieved that our officers and helicopter are back. We greatly appreciate the manner in which Pakistan has worked with us in resolving the matter,” said Indian external affairs ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash. The maturity with which both sides handled this sensitive issue is a positive development and proves that where there is a will, there is a way.

Tensions between India and Pakistan reached a new high after the 2008 Mumbai attacks. A dialogue between the two neighbours restarted after a long time but many issues remain unresolved to date due to six decades of tense relations. The same day as the helicopter incident, the Indian side accused Pakistan of violating the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Kashmiri territory when the Indians allegedly intercepted infiltrators trying to cross the border from Pakistan’s side. Despite a ‘hot’ LoC, it is a good sign that the Pakistani military handled the Indian chopper incident with a maturity that in days gone by would have been unthinkable. Our western border is absorbing the time, energy and resources of the Pakistan Army, which is why it does not want to engage on two fronts. Nevertheless, these circumstances are finally coinciding with our democratically elected government’s moves to normalise relations with India from the day it came into power. For Pakistan, when a critical foreign policy issue sees the military and civilian government on the same page, it is a good omen. Let’s hope that the military establishment is finally able to realise that peace with India and other neighbouring countries will go a long way in bringing back peace and stability to Pakistan and the region.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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