Delhi, Voice of Russia: “There have been incidents where both sides have been alleging violations by each other, killings of soldiers and mutilation of bodies. This dispute has been going on for decades and, unfortunately, there are many bloody milestones along the way,” Dr. Sriram Chaulia, Professor and Vice Dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs in New Delhi, India, told The Voice of Russia. Could we see a new low-point in Indo-Pakistani relations as a result of these last eventsI wouldn’t go that far. I think there have some setbacks over the last several months leading to clashes across the disputed border in Kashmir. And there have been incidents where both sides have been alleging violations by each other, killings of soldiers and mutilation of bodies. It’s been brutal actually. So, in that sense there is a feeling that it is going downhill in terms of confidence and mutual trust.
But then, this dispute has been going on for decades and, unfortunately, there are many bloody milestones along the way. So, this is going to be just one more. In a way, people on both sides have gotten inured and used to these occasional splashes of violence and brutality.
I don’t foresee this as a low-point. But certainly these incidents are building up. The only saving grace is that this was not a terrorist attack which leads to lots of civilian lives deep inside India, in one of our urban centers, because those have been also happening with Pakistani complicity in the past.
This one happened along a heavily militarized border with forces looking eye-to-eye across what we call the line of control. These instances do happen from time to time. The only thing is that they are very unfortunate and they should not be happening at all. But when you have a state of almost semi-permanent war along the line of control, you have to expect some such incidents occurring now and then.
But you don’t see this as possible reason to trigger a new war between the countries? You don’t see any danger of that?
I don’t think it is going to lead to that. The nearest we came to some kind of mass mobilization of armies which could have led to war was way back in 2001 when the Parliament of India was attacked in Delhi by armed Jihadists who were traced back the Pakistani intelligence establishment. Then there was a mass mobilization of forces and so on.
But this incident, I’m not going to belittle the lives of soldiers who are putting everything on the line on the border, but the fact is that, as I said, there are so many scenarios. There are ceasefire violations on both sides from time to time. So, I think we will take this with a degree of sadness that this has happened, but also with the hope that it will not escalate into anything more drastic.
And the Indian Government officials were due to start peace talks with their Pakistani counterparts this September. How do you think this attack coupled with what is going on, the commentary by the opposition – how is that going to really affect? Will we see that conference happening and when?
It is interesting because this attack has somehow revealed the features both within India and in Pakistan on the question of war and peace. The ones who are now urging the Indian Government to call off the talks are not necessarily very powerful parties. You have more right-wing parties which have been saying that we should just stop talking and escalate our counter-response to their violence.
The other argument is that the civilian side of the Pakistani Government, which as you know has barely completed its first democratic transition recently in its entire history by competing five years, and we’ve had a new regime come in under the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif; they seem to be out of the loop on these escalations that the Pakistani military is doing.
So, one argument within India is that we should not discourage the peace constituency on the other side, especially the civilian political parties, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s party. We should meet Prime Minister to Prime Minister in New York next month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
I have a feeling that unless there is some really-really terrible terrorist attack which leads to lots of civilian losses deep inside Indian territory, I don’t think we are looking at calling off the talks altogether. There is an exchange of envoys and representatives of both sides. And I think that will continue, partly because of these divisions, as I said. So, in a way it is a kind of match-making between the peace constituency in our country and the peace constituency across the border in Pakistan.
If both of us can somehow talk sense and move towards a solution, and isolate the hardliners – that’s a kind of a win-win strategy. But this has been tried in the past and has often failed.
And as I said, terrorist attacks, I don’t mean military to military exchanges, like the recent incident, but bomb blasts or suicide bombings – those sorts of things keep occurring in India from time to time. Those can really be the spoiled spot and can completely derail the process, like they did a few years ago in the infamous 26\11 attacks in Mumbai.
Courtesy: Voice of Russia