THE targeting of a UN vehicle by Indian forces along the Line of Control as well as revelations by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi that New Delhi is planning a surgical strike in this country do not bode well for peace in the subcontinent. Clearly, the hard-line BJP government is engaging in brinksmanship, though such adventurism can easily spiral out of control and is best avoided.

The vehicle belonging to the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan appeared to have been deliberately targeted on Friday in AJK, ironically while its occupants were on their way to inquire into ceasefire violations. While no one was hurt, images show the vehicle — clearly identifiable by its UN insignia — with bullet holes. The UN says it is investigating the incident, while Pakistan has summoned India’s charge d’affaires to protest this flagrant violation of international norms. This is not the first time Indian forces have indulged in aggression across the LoC. According to the Foreign Office, India has reportedly committed nearly 3,000 ceasefire violations this year alone, resulting in at least 27 deaths. The cross-LoC violence has intensified since Narendra Modi became prime minister of India.

Linked to the LoC disturbances are reports of India’s planned strike in Pakistan. According to Foreign Minister Qureshi, the reports were picked up by Pakistani intelligence, and India is apparently trying to seek the approval of its ‘partners’ for this foolhardy act. No one must be under any illusions regarding the proposed strike; such a move will surely inflame tensions in the region, and Pakistan will have no option but to strike back in order to defend itself. From there onwards, the situation will be difficult to control.

India tried a similar stunt in 2019 after the Pulwama affair, and Pakistan’s response was mature but firm. However, Mr Modi and his cohorts will be well advised not to repeat such adventurism. Moreover, New Delhi’s ‘partners’ must also be aware that such adventurism especially cannot be allowed in a region with nuclear powers.

Pakistan has time and again extended the hand of peace towards India, but these gestures have been rebuffed by the ultra-nationalist Modi government, which seeks to isolate this country. Progressive thinking is needed in South Asia that should let go of the demons of the past and work towards building peace in the region. However, such thinking cannot be expected from the warped minds that the Hindutva ideology has produced, that see South Asia’s — including India’s own — Muslims as eternal ‘outsiders’ and ‘enemies’.

The world community must speak up against the targeting of UN peacekeepers, as well as innocent civilians, along the LoC by India. Moreover, at a time when the world is grappling with multiple crises the message to India must be clear: any aggression against Pakistan will not be tolerated, and this country will defend itself fully.

Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2020

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