Saturday, 7 February 2015

War of words, editorial Daily Times Lahore, 8 February 2015

War of words, editorial Daily Times Lahore, 8 February 2015

In recent times the air has been thick with hostility and resentment on both sides of the India-Pakistan border. Every year, Pakistan commemorates Kashmir Day on February 5th to express solidarity with the people of Kashmir who have long been suffering because of the Pakistan-India dispute over the region and the denial of their right of self-determination. Although India is the status quo power in Indian-Held Kashmir, Pakistan still hopes the people of the region will be offered the plebiscite they were promised many years ago in the UN Security Council resolutions.

After decades of negotiations, international mediation and even wars, both countries are no nearer a resolution of the dispute. Tensions between the two neighbours have transcended the boundaries of the Kashmir dispute alone due to attacks on Indian soil carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), first on the Indian parliament in 2001 and then on multiple public buildings in Mumbai in 2008. To the indignation of the Indian people and politicians, the government of Pakistan has not so far been able to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Hafiz Saeed and other leaders of the organisation remain at large and the group is still active. Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the organiser of the Mumbai attacks, still has his case pending in the Pakistani courts. To prevent further bloodshed and to stop tensions between the two countries from reaching a boiling point, the Pakistan government must crack down on terrorism as a whole and LeT in particular.

Pakistani and Indian media have also been instrumental in inflaming the sentiments of the people of both countries against each other and increasingly so in recent years. Anti-Pakistan sentiment in India and anti-India sentiment in Pakistan is growing rapidly due to the use of confrontational and aggressive rhetoric on mainstream media outlets. As this hostile sentiment grows and flourishes amongst the masses, the governments of both countries may not be able to find a way back to talking to each other.

Robert Blackwill, a former US diplomat, recently observed, “The sentiment inside India has changed substantially” since the 2001 attacks and that “this prime minister is unlikely to step back” from a military response to attacks on Indian soil carried out by Pakistan-based Kashmiri groups. Bilateral negotiations must be carried out with the realisation that only a historic compromise on Kashmir is possible and the current war of words runs the risk of spilling over into a worse military confrontation, which brings the scary nuclear weapons factor into play. After three wars, massive casualties and material damage on both sides of the Line of Control, a peaceful resolution is both long overdue and the only way out. *

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