A Bloody Ritual

Cross LoC skirmishes have now become almost a regular feature between India and Pakistan. It could even be said that these have acquired the overtones and undertones of a ritual. This is as sad and alarming as can be. First, people living across the LoC live in perpetual fear and agony of displacement and even loss of life and limb. While India and Pakistan trade fire regular, these hapless and unfortunate people bear the brunt of the hostility between the two. If at all there is a redeeming feature of this ritualistic hostility between the two nuclear armed neighbors, it is that cross LoC skirmishes have not degenerated into all out war. But, this is cold comfort to the people who caught in this cross fire. It would appear that besides the presence of nuclear weapons and the paradigm of deterrence that obtains between India and Pakistan, the cross Loc exchange of fire does not breach certain red lines. Hence, the preclusion of a slide into war between the two. While the nature of provocation(s) is not always clear and invariably elicits recriminations, accusations and counter accusations and allegations, there lurks the danger of unpredictability and instability to the whole sordid saga. That is to say, it might not be too farfetched a scenario to posit that all out war could break between India and Pakistan under various stresses and strains. Prudence then suggests that an end to these ritualistic incidences of cross firing be sought. The question is how? Besides the usual and hackneyed ideas of establishing hot lines and improved communication between the two sides along the LoC, it may behoove both to enter into a diplomatic relationship that proscribes these regular incidents. In the final analysis, however, peace and quiet along the LoC can only crystallize, if and when the major sticking point between India and Pakistan, the conflict in and over Kashmir, is resolved. Peace within and without runs through Kashmir. But, historically and contemporarily, the two adversaries have been locked in mortal combat over Kashmir with each side refusing to come down and back off their respective maximalist perches. In the nature of a travesty, which holds hostage peace and prosperity in South Asia, this mutually antagonistic relationship with apocalyptic overtones must be given short shrift. The gravamen and direction of history suggest one day the conflict will be resolved but till then tragedy and human suffering lies in store for the peoples constituting the South Asian firmament. Alas!