October 27, 2014
With tensions along the LoC, the centre of gravity for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute has moved away from Jammu and Kashmir, both geographically and mentally
When two elephants fight, goes the oft-repeated cliché, it is the grass that gets trampled on. The recent firing along the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) between India and Pakistan has caused the deaths of both soldiers and civilians, has set back dialogue and left the Kashmir resolution process gravely wounded. The most lasting effects of these will no doubt be felt by the people of Jammu and Kashmir who bear the brunt of all the tensions between the two countries. In more than a decade of the ceasefire holding, farmers had resumed planting crops, schools had sprung back to life, and many villages were repopulated along the LoC, outcomes that are endangered now. But what has affected the State the most is that as a result of such tensions, the centre of gravity for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute has moved away from Jammu and Srinagar, Poonch and Rajouri, both geographically and mentally.
Away from a resolution
Consider for example the crisis from August to October this year. As the firing progressed and artillery guns were deployed, the discourse moved away from the purview of local commanders. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government issued orders that the local Border Security Force (BSF) commanders must not accede to a flag meeting, and firing should persist. Orders from Pakistan were sharp too, as the Army kept the barrage going on its side. Fairly soon, New Delhi and Rawalpindi were engaging each other, and the messaging had deeper undertones. It was clear that Pakistan’s Army was testing the new Indian government, raising firing levels in the pre-winter shooting season. And the new Indian government was letting Pakistan know there is zero-tolerance in its working style. This was reflected in the India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary talks being cancelled over a meeting with Hurriyat leaders, while the firing over the LoC/IB resumed, according to a senior Defence ministry official, “in double measure.”