IT is unfortunate that, following the reported killing of Indian soldiers along the Line of Control some days ago, there has been little effort by India and Pakistan to defuse tensions. Despite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s call for restraint, both India and Pakistan have traded accusations and the skirmishes have spread. The prevailing situation is threatening to derail the November 2003 ceasefire along the LoC. On India’s part, a hard line has been taken by the military while the Congress party’s youth wing, no doubt with an eye on the 2014 Indian elections, has held anti-Pakistan demos. Army chief Gen Bikram Singh’s anger at his commanders for not using mortar fire and artillery against Pakistani troops must be regretted. A higher degree of firepower will lead to an equally potent response from the Pakistan military, and that will wreck whatever is left of the 2003 ceasefire. Such a stance raises serious doubts about the Congress-led government’s sincerity to the peace process. Obviously, the tension along the LoC cannot be lowered when the military top brass takes its cue from a hawkish policy on Pakistan.
Such a situation is exacerbated by the fact that Pakistan is without a foreign minister in these testing times. Mr Sharif has chosen to be his own foreign minister and defence minister, and since his duties as prime minister must come first, the challenges in the domain of external affairs and defence do not get the time, attention and priority they deserve. This concentration of power must lead to lack of direction for the bureaucracy and hinder diplomatic responses to crisis situations. Equally important is the need for Pakistan to crack down on militancy within its borders. While cross-LoC militancy has no doubt gone down considerably over the years, the ability of non-state actors to use Pakistan’s soil to carry out attacks on other countries remains intact. This makes it all the more incumbent on Pakistan to set its own house in order.