LoC killings: Is a third-party probe the way ahead?
(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)
The death toll on the Line of Control in Kashmir is four since Jan. 6: two from India’s military, two from Pakistan’s. One thing is sure: neither side started it, judging by what you hear from both countries’ armed forces and from media reports.
The killings threaten to muffle talk of a thaw in relations, something that would have been welcome after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and years of fighting and death in Kashmir before a 2003 ceasefire.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it was prepared for an investigation by a U.N. military observer group. India’s foreign minister Salman Khurshid suggested that the situation could be contained. So why not submit to an independent probe?
The peace process has been steady lately; incidents like these — especially when only one party could be right, yet both insist the other is wrong, should be avoided. It would be a shame of the most ironic proportions to start a war over a runaway granny.
D. Suba Chandran, the director of Delhi-based think tank Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, agrees.
“It’s up to India and Pakistan to address how serious they are. But I’m quite positive this will not and this should not become a major issue at the Indo-Pak level. It should be an issue at the cross LoC level and should be settled at the LoC level.”
A similar view comes from across the border.
“It is more important to keep it going than to move fast. It is because the process has been interrupted so often that it is so tenuous,” said Beena Sarwar, editor of the Aman ki Asha (Hope for Peace) initiative.
It is a shame that you can’t seem to get a reliable report on what happened. Stories of an Indian soldier’s body being mutilated provoked anger in Indian media. On the Newshour show, Times Now Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami repeatedly asked panellists from Pakistan to admit that the mutilators were “cowards”. The channel’s consultant strategic affairs expert Maroof Raza told the Pakistani guests to “shut up”. On Headlines Today, a TV show aired with a banner which read: “Teach Pakistan a lesson“.
In Pakistan, meanwhile, blogger Ali Ahmed criticised Indian media, and seemed to suggest that, just like at the Line of Control, the Pakistani media wouldn’t be able to restrain itself from hitting back.
“The irresponsible and sensationalist stances taken by the Indian media can thus push their counterparts in Pakistan into a very uneasy corner. Already there is valid criticism on the media for not presenting Pakistan’s case as well, and as forcefully, as it should have. Parts of the media have in response taken sterner lines.”
Geo TV in Pakistan appears to be doing its own version of supporting the home team. A video about the death of soldier Muhammad Aslam carries the headline: “Indian aggression on LoC: Pakistan army soldier martyred.” The video features shots of his distraught mother crying for her son, as well as sad music to make viewers understand that this is a sad story.
There is plenty of speculation about India’s motives, such as a government or military attempt to divert attention from the Delhi rape case. (Here is one example which we spotted on Twitter today: Could this renewed LOC crossfire by #India, a ruse to make people take their focus off the Delhi rape case? Seems quite likely. #Pakistan). On Pakistan’s motives, Headlines Today’s Rahul Kanwal said on his show, “The Pakistani army wants to show the nation why it is important. It is escalating tensions as part of a deliberate, calibrated strategy.”
In a conversation that I had with Smruti S. Pattanaik, a research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, she said that, “[S]ince there is a divergence between what the civilian government thinks and what the Pakistani army thinks, it is inevitable that India has to live with … at one hand the peace process and on the other hand this problem on the border.”
If that is the case, why wouldn’t India want a third party to investigate the incident? If Pakistan and India must live with a problem on the border, wouldn’t this be the best way to help make it go away?
(Follow Sankalp on Twitter @sankalp_sp)