The exact sequence of events around the incident in which one of our soldiers lost his life on the Line of Control (LoC) last Sunday is, as ever, disputed. According to our own military spokesperson Indian troops crossed the LoC and attacked a military post. Our soldiers responded, eventually repulsing the attack with the loss of one soldier and two others being seriously wounded. The Indian Defence Ministry’s version is diametrically opposite. They say that our troops opened fire entirely unprovoked in the north Uri sector of Indian-administered Kashmir and that the Indian troops responded and forced our troops to ceasefire. There are now reports of another clash along the LoC, and it is being said to have led to the death of two Indian soldiers in Sona Gali in Mendhar Sector of the LoC. There has been a bilateral ceasefire along the disputed border since November 2003, and this is the most serious incident of recent times. There have been numerous violations of the ceasefire, and each side accuses the other of failing to honour it and the entire border region remains highly volatile, despite a thaw in relations over the last year. Incidents such as this have the potential to put relations between the two countries back in the freezer unless they are handled with the utmost delicacy.
Diplomacy got into gear on Monday morning as Pakistan warned India against any recurrence of the attack and urged the Indian government to take such measures as necessary to avoid anything similar in the future. Indian Deputy High Commissioner Gopal Bagal was called to the Foreign Office and given a formal protest note. Later in the day the US expressed its concern over the incident and urged both sides to exercise restraint. The US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that the US ...”consistently supported attempts between India and Pakistan to find a positive way forward between them and to work on issues of Kashmir.” It is not for us to adjudicate one way or another, but it is for us to urge moderation and restraint by all sides. The LoC is a flashpoint along its entire length and has the capacity to derail the efforts of those with peaceful intent. Neither nation needs or wants another war, both countries have moved beyond that, but the various ‘tracks’ that make up a still-frail peace process need to gain weight and traction to the extent that they are a counterweight to any military contacts, and that peace is the ultimate winner. Serious as this incident is we cannot, must not, allow it to propel us in the direction of further confrontation.