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LoC under spotlight

During January and February this year, skirmishes between the border security forces of India and Pakistan on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir resulted cost the lives of six soldiers; four of them were Pakistani while two were Indian. One of the two Indians killed was allegedly beheaded by Pakistanis soldiers-a report that caused tensions between the two states, but didn’t lead to a serious stand-off.

However, a terrorist attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in July, wherein nine individuals lost their lives, relations again became tense. Indian political circles interpreted the Kabul attack as a Pakistani tactic aimed at containing India’s influence in Afghanistan in the post-2014 Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, beginning the last week of July, Indian troops began targeting the Pak Army as well as civilians living close to the LoC.

On August 5, the Youth Wing of the Indian National Congress (INC) stormed the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi. By August 26, border security forces of the two countries had clashed as many as 17 times, often using heavy weapons, resulting in deaths and mutual destruction. Another factor that has triggered this anti-Pakistan reaction is the approach of the general elections scheduled in May 2014.

Manifesting patriotism by competing in condemning Pakistan is a deceptive tradition the Indian politicians have stuck to religiously. The reason behind their strategy is not that Pakistan poses a threat to India; it is to cover up politicians’ ever-lasting incompetence in finding solutions to a multi-racial India’s problems, given the rise in its population, and the variety of economic and social challenges it poses.

According to the World Bank, a two-thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people now live on less than $2 a day, its current account deficit is at a record 4.8 percent of the GDP, and since January 2013, the exchange rate of its rupee has fallen by 15 percent – highest in the last two decades and the worst in Asia this year. Politicians’ anti-Pakistan rhetoric is therefore seen as a shabby cover up.

Under BJP’s pressure, the INC blames Pakistan’s security agencies, and religious outfits (portrayed as their front), for the attacks on India’s parliament, Samjhauta Express, and the Taj Mahal Hotel. In mid-July, Satish Verma, a former home ministry official, disclosed that a member of one of India’s secret services had accused incumbent governments of ‘orchestrating’ these terror attacks.

These attacks, carried out by Indian secret agencies, were to justify drafting anti-terror laws. The attack on the parliament justified the passage of the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act and amendment to Unlawful Activities Prevention Act followed terrorists’ siege of Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai. As for the Samjhauta Express tragedy, a member of Hindutva’s terrorist wing recently confessed to his role in that crime.

On August 5, Samajwadi Party chief, Mulayam Singh Yadav, claimed that the then President Shankar Dayal Sharma was told on December 4, 1992-two days before the tragedy-about a plan to destroy the Babri mosque but he warned him and his party leaders not talk about it. After the Babri mosque was demolished, over 2,000 Muslims were butchered by frenzied mobs of BJP’s Karsevaks.

Tragically for the inhabitants of the Indo-Pak subcontinent the effect of BJP’s hostility has been that the INC is trying to project itself as more anti-Pakistan than the BJP; the changing stance of India’s Defence Minister on who actually carried out the alleged killing of five Indian soldiers on the LOC on August 5, shows that INC doesn’t mind committing diplomatic blunders provided they weaken BJP’s status. Given this milieu, and the political mindset it reflects, investors everywhere doubt that the May 2014 elections will lead to any positive trends. India – Asia’s third-largest economy – is seeing massive capital outflows at a time when its policymakers are trying to attract foreign funds to plug an expanding current account deficit, and possible default on repayment of external debt.

Fortunately, Pakistan’s politicians (except the religious extremists) gave up the India-bashing tactic long ago. While the logic they offer, and claims they make about improving governance may be grossly deceptive, they no longer capitalise on anti-India rhetoric. They agree that in the coming century the only option is to join hands with India for fairly sharing the region’s natural resources, especially its water resources.

One of the reasons why PML-N won the recent general election was its rational stance on developing far wider trade relations with India to maximise the benefits of regional trade – a stance he has stuck to despite a highly tense situation on the LoC and the venomous statements of not only the BJP but also of Indian Defence Minister and the Prime Minister, and India’s diversion of Pakistan’s share of water in the Indus basin.

The difference in the attitude of politicians in Pakistan and India leads one to think that, perhaps, the Indian politicians have little to offer in terms of solutions to India’s internal problems. An indicator of the electorate’s loss of confidence in the political parties (including the INC) is that, since 1989, no political party could win an outright majority in the Lok Sabha.

Like Pakistan, India suffers from the after-effects of mis-governance of the state: money-laundering, corruption in state offices and the private sector, inflation, rising poverty, crime, religious divides, ongoing insurgencies in Kashmir, and in the Eastern states of India where “Maoists” have the upper hand. These circumstances hardly suggest that India and Pakistan should aspire to decimate each other militarily.

In the present economic circumstances of both India and Pakistan, the last thing their politicians can is to add to tensions on the borders of two nuclear powers. Pakistan – already fighting a hugely resource-consuming battle against terrorism – deludes itself no more with ambitions of overpowering India militarily. Fighting wars proved disastrous for both countries beyond any doubt.

Nawaz Sharif has emphasised the need for both countries to join hands for the economic uplift of their masses because their anger manifested boldly by Anna Hazare’s campaign could lead to anarchy – a trend already showing its colours in both India and Pakistan. While Pakistan is trying to negotiate with the Taliban (or whoever is using that front), against the Kashmiri dissidents and the Maoists, India appears helpless.

In December 2011, during his visit to India, Pakistan’s Commerce Minister had proposed enhancing bilateral trade from its level of $2.7 billion to $6 billion a year in three years. It seemed a tall order then; now it appears a dream if the openness on both sides then to materialise this target is decimated by what is happening on the LoC. But the onus of responsibility will sure lie with India.

A B Shahid, "LoC under spotlight," Business recorder. 2013-08-27.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political systems , Political problems , Political leaders , Economic issues , Social issues , Economic development , Line of control , Military-India , Military-Pakistan , Kabul , Pakistan