Pakistan and India are back to their favourite pastime; trading accusations and promising swift vengeance upon one another. The tentative hope of a normalised relationship that was created after the meeting of both countries leaders in Ufa has completely dissipated. The final nail in the coffin may have been the Gurdaspur attack, but the escalation of tensions had begun long before that.
The tragic attack in Gurdaspur is surely condemnable, and in the long history of cross border attacks carried out by groups in both countries, it cannot be ruled out that the attackers came from Pakistan. Yet what is problematic is the fact that the Indian media and politicians began blaming Pakistan while the attack was underway – having no proof or even the slightest indication that the attackers were Pakistani.
By the time the dust settled, Pakistan had been accused, condemned and convicted, before the first investigative officer set foot inside the building the attackers were holed up in. This betrays an established mindset – a default assumption – each violent attack in India is perpetrated by Pakistan, until proven otherwise, and even then the blame isn’t wholly washed away. This is followed by a default reaction; sabre rattling and jingoistic war cries that have become the staple of the ruling BJP. It is this assumption and reaction that the Foreign Office correctly termed ‘unfortunate’. Unless the BJP can tone down the jingoism – which had picked up soon after the Ufa meeting – peace is not possible.
For their part, Pakistani authorities don’t show prudence either. Every jab from Delhi is met with two from Islamabad. Senior Advisor to Prime Minister on National Security Sartaj Aziz said on Friday that the government is considering highlighting the issue of Indian spy agency Research and Analysis Wing’s (RAW) involvement in Pakistan with the United Nations and other international forums. While the action is certainly merited, it seems to be a reply to Indian accusations rather than a separate notion – and the sparring begins again.
Normalised relationships are only possible if both sides make an effort. This requires them to forgo conflict as well as build better bonds. But it is obvious that one side is not prepared to do that; in fact conflict lies at the heart of its politics. It was Nawaz Sharif who extended an olive branch at Ufa, even at the face of criticism from home that he was being too pliant towards Modi. Yet BJP continues to bash Pakistan to garner support at home and burnish its ‘strongman’ image. Cross-border violations picked up pace as soon as the Ufa meeting was concluded and were followed by the usual jingoism – it is not hard to see who wants peace and who doesn’t.
Indian Default Setting