India and Pakistan are in turbulent relations at present. This is not a new thing; instead the historical events since 1947 reminded us about it several times. Relations could not become friendly even after 71 years of separate existence. If one will count reasons, there would be many, but mostly of accusing each other for unresolved disputes. Governments on both sides changed multiple times on both sides, many leaders joined the governments, initiated dialogues too and it once gave some sort of hope, of forgetting things and starting a new journey of coordination and cooperation. But nothing concrete could be achieved. We went and found confidence building measures (CBMs), but we could not found solution of even a single dispute. The fact is that we accumulated problems, we created problems and these multiple overlapped problems made it more complex when the issues of importance have been made politicized for vote gains on both sides.
Now, when Imran Khan is a Prime Minister of Pakistan with ‘Naya Pakistan’ slogan. His public statement towards peace process with India is positive. Sidhu’s visit to Pakistan sent a positive message but once again with international propaganda and using UNGA stage to accuse each other has made it again on square one. However despite all odds, there must be hope and light, there must be demands, desires and dreams to move ahead for stronger bond. There is no alternative of dialogues and if it can be started strategically to have win-win results for both sides, it may pave the future way.
While dialogues are advocated, priorities need to be decided. It is evident that in recent years, ceasefire violations (CFVs) increased rapidly. Even while Imran Khan was all set to take oath, CFVs reported on both sides. These CFVs are not only claiming lives of soldiers on both sides who are first line of defence of their respective sides, but also claiming lives of civilians too. Schools, houses, fields have been damaged, many people migrated from their native villages and instead of modern amenities to comfort lives, government is bound to build bunkers to protect citizens. In his reply to Lok Sabaha, Minister of State (Home Ministry) had informed that construction of 14460 bunkers (including 1431 community bunkers) is recommended by a study group formed under Special secretary (Internal security).
Border population is vulnerable to these CFVs. J&K government believes 448 villages (among 590 villages situated between 0-5 km from IB/LoC) are vulnerable to CFVs. With the records available, it is evident that numbers of reported incidents of CFVs in 2018 were 942 (till July), in 2017 were 860, in 2016 were 449, in 2015 were 405, in 2014 were 583. 45 army personals, 27 BSF personals and 83 civilians lost their lives during 2014 to June 2018 only with more loss during 2017-18.
Before the year 2003, there were 8376 cases reported in the year 2002 and 2045 cases in the year 2003 whereas after the 2003 agreement on ceasefire, these incidents reduced to nil in year 2004 and with fewer incidents in consecutive years. This 2003 agreement was unique as it was not a formal agreement and instead was based upon trust of both sides and was made possible with governments of both sides, however with the time when CFVs are once again increased, particularly during 2017-2018, there is absence of political dialogues.
Now, when Pakistan is moving ahead to build a Naya Pakistan and an official start of building relations has been initiated by official delegation from Pakistan that visited to attend funeral of former Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Government of India must initiate dialogue process with its priority to bring the formal ceasefire agreement. Political dialogues must also start between India and Pakistan with the aim to resolve long pending issues, but priority must be given to immediate talks upon issues which already have agreed grounds such as ceasefire agreement as it would aim to reduce fatality on both sides and would in turn strengthen confidence on both sides to move further.
Dialogues are necessary to save lives of soldiers who are dying on both sides. Dialogues are necessary to ascertain violence free and safe future of people. India and Pakistan have capability to change the future of subcontinent. A close cooperation between them can ensure solution to various problems, increased GDPs, increased basic facilities whereas a vicious relation may continue killing soldiers and people on both sides; may continue killing ideas of peace and innocence of hearts. As Sustainable Development Goals-16 (SDG16) states, armed violence and insecurity have destructive impact on a country’s development and often resulting a long standing grievances among communities that can last for generations. We must strive to break this cycle of grievance and to make efforts to do those through dialogues would be a significant contribution to SDG16.
(Author is youth activist and freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)