Line of Murder

Even as 50 Pakistani students who were About to Completea goodwill trip to India, at the  invitation of an NGO, came the order from the office of the ministry of external affairs to stop them. In truth they were immediately sent back much to the dismay of their host — the concerned NGO. It all happened close on the heels of bone-chilling incident of beheading of two Indian soldiers along the Line of Control (LoC). And Indo-Pak diplomacy took its usual turn as Pakistan High Commissioner was summoned and provided ‘‘enough evidence’’ on Pakistan army’s direct involvement in the medieval barbaric act. Only a few weeks back the decision of the Pakistan Military court to hand down death sentence to Indian national Kulbhusan Jadhav, a retired naval officer, and now a businessman in Iran, virtually sealed the scope of the much talked about peace process between India and Pakistan. The Pakistani military court has already earned notoreity in trying civilians. Since 2015 they have reportedly awarded death sentences to 161 people – in some cases to children – in closed-door trials, for terrorism-related offences. Jaddav was captured last year by the Pakistani intelligence agency for espionage charges. No details of Jadhav’s subversive activities have so far been provided by Islamabad. On the country Sartaz Aziz, Nawaz Sharif’s foreign affairs adviser, last year said in no uncertain terms that the ‘Jadhav case’ was based on ‘‘insufficient evidence’’. The way Jadhav has been tired is violative of international norms, rule of law or rule of war etc.

That the Pakistani military entablishment has been Talibanised over the years is a fact of life. For one thing promoting Taliban by the Pakistani military has simply boomeranged. The barbarians now almost daily kill 10 to 20 people in different parts of the country to destabilise Pakistani polity. It’s now an open secreat that the Pakistani military has vested interests in keeping the pot boiling all the time. They have everything to gain from a perennial war situation in Kashmir and a hot LoC which is anything but a line of murder.

That India and Pakistan will never be able to make it at the negotiating table is the bitter reality. Only popular initiatives – poeple to people exchanges – outside the ambit of official diplomatic parley can change the rules of the game. But that is discouraged by the powers that be on both sides of the fence. Cultural exchanges that occasionally take place between the two peoples, quite often get abandoned in the middle, thanks to hardliners who think only a full-scale war can resolve the Kashmir tangle. But this time a full-scale war means nuclear war and its outcome doesn’t require much to elaborate. People to people relations cannot develop by decrees. China started its opening with Ping Pong diplomacy and now it shows the world how diplomatic relations can move forward without compromising on principles and surrendering national interests. Both India and Pakistan are reluctant to learn anything from China though Pakistan considers China, not America, as its true friend in need.

Pakistan continues to harbour an illusion that they will be able to resolve the Kashmir issue to their advantage through multilateralism, not bilateralism. So they welcomed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent sugestion of having a multilateral conference to resolve the Kashmir problem, an offer that was summarily rejected by India. The idea of multilareralism got some boost as a section of press reported about China’s latent interest in playing a mediator role in the Kashmir imbroglio. All this speculation came against the backdrop of China’s huge investment in ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’ that passes through PoK. The root of this speculation, however, lies in an article recently published in the Global Times, a ruling Communist Party of China Publication. But it is not the Chinese policy to interfere in internal affairs of others. But the GT article is significant in the sense that for the first time the      Chinese official propaganda machine doesn’t see anything wrong in China’s mediatory role in view of tectonic shift in its power-balance in the world. The decline of America means China is all set to fill up the economic vacuum created by America’a absence. The large presence of Chinese companies, especially those with special advantages in high-speed railway construction, nuclear power and communication technology in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor matters.

All things considered China may reverse its policy of non-interference if the situation so demands. They have already done it by playing the role of a mediator — between Bangladesh and Myanmar in regard to the Rohingya refugees. But Kashmir is a different proposition. The so-called international community, particularly America, has refused to oblige Pakistan by agreeing to do the job of an arbiter It's a bilateral issue. If the sub-continentals cannot resolve it after so many years no power on earth will be able to clinch it.

The forces of division seem to be working overtime in both countries. With hatred and fear welling up within and between populations, only people to people contact could save the situation. This is no seminar-room luxury but a matter of life and death otherwise instead of being a ‘line of peace’ as the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto called it after signing the Shimla agreement, LoC will be a ‘line of murder.’’

Vol. 49, No.45, May 14 - 20, 2017