We live in a bizarre region where relationships between neighbours are kept tense while those between states that are thousands of miles away remain amicable. This seems to be the case even though a variety of social, cultural and economic factors, along with common problems and a shared destiny, unify the neighbouring countries in the region.
Just look at the level of relationship between India and the US or between Pakistan and Italy. No doubt we have some major differences with our neighbours but such differences seem superficial when we compare our societies, problems and ideologies with those of our so-called distant friends in Europe, Africa and America. This point is ignored at large by our media, policymakers, politicians and hawks. Hence no country in the region is ready to mend its ties and policies with its neighbours, giving way to unending rivalry.
The animosity between the two major players of the region – Pakistan and India – has filled the lives of its people with hatred, violence, ignorance, poverty and a low standard of living. While the intensity of the conflict between both neighbours varies, the current decade has witnessed an escalation in tension levels, increasing both nations’ mistrust and inability to communicate.
This strain in relations is reflected in almost all spheres of life – from movies to trade and from river waters to foreign relations with other countries – across the border. Both Islamabad and New Delhi are aggressively trying to hurt each others’ interests at regional and global levels. They oppose each other’s entry to the NSG, bash each other at the UNGA and call each other ‘terror-sponsoring’ states at global moots.
Recently, Commander of US Central Command General Joseph L Votel, in his statement before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, raised serious concerns about the ongoing diplomatic and low level border skirmishes between the two countries. He said: “India remains concerned about the lack of action against India-focused militants based in Pakistan and even responded militarily (the Indian claim of surgical strike).... We assess that these types of attacks and the potential reactions increase the likelihood for miscalculations by both countries.”
Speaking about the Indo-Pak tension in the same statement, Gen Votel said: “India’s policy to diplomatically isolate Pakistan hinders any prospects for improved relations. This is especially troubling as a significant conventional conflict between Pakistan and India could escalate into a nuclear exchange, given that both are nuclear powers”.
This statement received equal media attention in both Pakistan and India. While the press and television channels highlighted it considerably, very few heard the warning bells.
India’s reaction after the Uri attack is a distant departure from the strategic position it adopted in the past. Though Indian claims of surgical strikes have been dismissed by our civil and military leadership, Gen Votel had backed Indian claims in his veiled statement.
People in both the countries certainly need to opt for a change in their diplomatic and military options so that the threat of a full-scale conflict in the region can be averted. Any misadventure could reduce the Subcontinent into a war zone.
The writer works at Khyber News.