EDITORIAL: Ill-conceived policies having landed them in a bind, Indian rulers are spinning a self-serving narrative to cover up their follies. Speaking on Monday at virtual inauguration of 44 brigades in areas bordering China and Pakistan, defence minister Rajnath Singh said that those two countries were creating conditions that suggest a border dispute is being created under a mission. The statement is laden with fallacies. First of all, neither dispute is new. The one with this country being a part of the unfinished agenda of Partition has lingered on since Pakistan and India came into being as two independent states. It led them into two all-out wars and as many limited conflicts. India and China fought a border war as far back as 1962, which ended in an uneasy truce with occasional clashes between their troops guarding the undefined border. Second of all and most importantly, the Pak-India confrontation over Kashmir is not about a border dispute but a people’s right, as recognized by UNSC resolutions, to decide their future.
As for the conditions in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the people there have been up in arms, in ebbs and flows, for over thirty years. The latest wave of protests which erupted following the July 2016 killing of a popular resistance leader, Burhan Wani, has gone from strength to strength. Change of the disputed region’s status by the ruling BJP-RSS combine amid curfew, human rights violations and abuses has further fueled Kashmiri people’s anger. Indeed, Pakistan has been extending them its moral support by raising its voice in the international arena. India, on the other hand, has been relentlessly violating the 2003 ceasefire agreement to distract international attention from its crimes in the disputed region. In the current year alone, it has committed as many as 2,225 violations of the Line of Control (LoC) and the Working Boundary (WB) firing artillery, heavy-calibre mortars and automatic weapons on populated areas, claiming the lives of 18 civilians and causing injuring to at least 176 others. Regarding the dispute with China, the ‘conditions’ at the border were ‘created’ when last May India started construction of roads and air strips in the disputed area triggering a standoff, which soon escalated in deadly violence that left 20 Indian soldiers dead and dozens others injured. If the Chinese suffered any casualties that remains unknown. What is known is that Indian annexation of Ladakh as union territory, parts of which are legitimately claimed by China, has further exacerbated border tensions.
Whatever the Indian leaders might say to pacify their domestic critics some of whom are questioning the government claims with such snide remarks as “they [the Chinese] change maps, we change apps” there seems to be a realization that the country is no match for China’s military and technological capabilities. Efforts are on to find a face-saving solution through talks. The two sides’ military, diplomatic and political officials have held several rounds of talks, their foreign and defence ministers also held negotiations last month in Moscow. Although the talks have calmed down the situation the face-off stays in place. Meanwhile, unprovoked violations of LoC and WB continue, which as Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly been warning, could escalate into a full-blown war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours with debilitating consequences for this region and beyond. As acknowledged by military experts in India itself, the Indian military is in no position to fight a two-front war. It is therefore in that country’s own interest to stop sabre-rattling and resolve the two very different but concurrent disputes through the time-honoured means of negotiations. Hubris may prevent India’s ultra Hindu nationalist rulers from moving in that direction at this point in time, but sooner or later the ‘conditions’ could compel that country to go down that road.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020