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All is not well
The renewed blame game demonstrates that there is need for immediate India-Pakistan engagement
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Even as some sanity is restored to the Line of Control, what appears to be going out of control is the re-enactment of ugly allegations and counter allegations, having surfaced with two news reports, one about Pakistan’s old complaint to the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) about a dozen cases of beheadings of Pakistani soldiers by Indian forces and the second about ISI having awarded the terrorist who carried out the recent beheading of an Indian jawan, that inflamed passions on this side and led to heightening of tensions between the two countries. Such bellicose rhetoric has the dangerous potential of once again vitiating the atmosphere between India and Pakistan and bringing the two sides to the unwanted and perilious path of confrontation. Both these reports that surfaced on Wednesday throw up several questions. One, about if Pakistan did indeed make such a claim before the UN watchdog, why is the Indian side totally ignorant about it. Second about the validity of the claims of the report, that quotes some military intelligence inputs, that it ISI paid Rs 5 lakh award to the terrorist who carried out the beheading. Though no official, either in the army or in the defence ministry, has responded to the report, the credibility of such assertions are questionable given the fact that the Indian position so far has been that the two soldiers, one of whom was beheaded, were killed by Pakistan’s army personnel, even as the latter maintained that this was the handiwork of ‘non-state actors’. The Indian officials and army maintained that they had evidence to substantiate their claims. If the Indian military intelligence inputs were pointing out to the soldiers being killed in action by terrorist groups, with or without the backing of Pakistan’s ISI, why was such brouhaha allowed to become unmanageable without any concrete evidence. If the military intelligence inputs were awaited, as suggested by this report which maintains that the sleuths just about cracked the code, then either there was no evidence and the Indian officials jumped the gun without a second thought or the present inputs are wrong, since both are quite contradictory in nature. The incident needs a probe not only for the fact that none of the assertions made so far seem credible but also for the fact that such confusions fuel contradictory statements and consequently belligerence which must be avoided at all costs. The need, therefore, is for immediate bilateral engagement to remove such doubts and if either side has objections to a third party intervention, such confusions can be resolved only through mutually created trust and placing on table concrete evidence, not just wild assertions and allegations.

There is also the larger question of ugly beheadings that needs a commensurate response. Decapitating soldiers and mutilating bodies is internationally unacceptable and neither the Indian army nor Pakistani army would legitimise or condone such acts as a matter of policy. However, recent reports and revelations seem to be pointing out that even though this may not be the norm, this is a practice that has been going on in many cases and it would be futile hairsplitting over looking for any empirical evidence of which side is more brutal than the other. The issue needs to be factored into the future bilateral engagements between India and Pakistan, not simply to carry on the blame game but to ensure that such incidents are not repeated in future in keeping with the norms and civility of the times without placing any misplaced value of heroism or valour on barbaric acts and equal retaliation. The only thing more important than this would be to carry on with a sustained dialogue process that will lead to ultimate negotiations for peace and end to any killings of any kind emerging from the confrontation between the two countries. An earnest effort needs to begin on all these fronts, shunning any old bias and old traditions that spark animosity and hatred. These cannot be the mantras of the modern ages.
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News Updated at : Friday, February 1, 2013
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