WEB DESK: Punjab Rangers Director General Major General Umar Farooq Burki’s visit to India seems to have helped not only resolve some of the reasons related to cease-fire violations along the Working Boundary (WB), but also lowering of temperatures between the two countries.
In a sharp contrast with the provocative statements that have been emanating from the Modi government for sometime, a change of tone was noticeable in the Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s tone when the Pakistani delegation called on him. He told the visitors, “India will not fire the first bullet towards Pakistan along the border (New Delhi of course refers to the WB as ‘border’, where shelling by its Border Security Force (BSF) has claimed several Pakistani civilian lives). It is never easy to determine who fired the first bullet.
What is important therefore is creating an atmosphere of peace.
Home Minister Singh went on to say that his country wanted to engage in dialogue with Pakistan at different levels. Expressing regret that the national security advisors-level talks could not take place, he said his country wanted to have good relations with Pakistan.
Lest that be taken as mere rhetoric he added, “I’m saying this not for formality’s sake but ‘tahay dil se’ (from the bottom of the heart).” Further stressing that point he recalled the words of former BJP Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, “we can change friends, not the neighbours” and averred, that is why it is necessary to have cordial relations with all neighbouring countries, including Pakistan.
If the Modi government has had a change of heart is hard to imagine. But an outward change is evident, indicating that the US’ advice to New Delhi to restore the stalled dialogue process with Islamabad is being heeded.
On the immediate issue at hand, namely relentless cease-fire violations, what the two sides decided, inspires hope. It may be recalled that tensions had risen so high at one point, that in utter disregard for the code of conduct, the BSF killed a Pakistani Ranger during a flag meeting.
The issue was naturally “strongly raised” by the Pakistani delegation, to which it was assured such happenings will not be repeated. For the future, according to Pakistani sources, Indians agreed to stop cease-fire violations through enhanced communication via multiple modes at all possible levels along the WB. The two sides are to speak to each other at lower levels as well, to sort out local issues faster.
This is important given that more often than not firing and shelling is started, as some ex-officers attest, by local commanders due to perceived or real provocations by the other side. To prevent such incidents in future, India accepted Pakistan’s suggestion to conduct joint investigation of serious incidents happening along the Working Boundary/’international border’. However, the cause of recent escalation in firing and shelling has been Indian violation of an existing agreement under which the two countries decided not to resort to any new defence constructions within a certain distance from the disputed boundary.
That issue remains unresolved. Where the roots of this particular problem lie comes out clearly from the statement that the BSF agreed to refer the issue to the Indian government.
How the government responds to it would show if the Indian Home Minister sincerely meant the nice words he spoke about engaging in a dialogue at different levels to have good relations with this neighbouring country.