What’s happening on the western front?
What is really happening on India-Pakistan border? But for daily Army bulletins, faithfully carried by the print and digital media, we are enlightened little either by the Defence Ministry or the government. We have been hearing escalation in border tensions for five to six months. After the recent spy saga in which both India and Pakistan have squared off by expelling equal number of ‘agents’ working in their respective diplomatic missions, a barrage of mutual recriminations continued until domestic developments have overtaken them. The alleged espionage episodes might have ended the diplomatic war for the time being but there is no end in sight to the cross-border firings.
In the latest incident, Pak Army-backed militants ambushed three soldiers of a patrol team and killed them on Tuesday — one of them was beheaded – which prompted the Indian Army to mount heavy attacks on Wednesday in several sectors along the Line of Control to avenge the savage act. Press reports indicated that the Indian armed forces had mortar-shelled Pak posts in Poonch, Rajouri, Kel and Machli sectors while truce violations by Pakistan were reported in Bhimber Gali, Krishna Ghati and Nowshera sectors of Kashmir.
From the other side of the border, the Express Tribune reported on Wednesday that at least eight people were killed and nine others injured on Wednesday as Indian Army targeted a passenger bus along the Line of Control near Neelum valley (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir). “Indian forces also fired on an ambulance which went to evacuate the victims,” the paper said quoting an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement.
Earlier, ISPR said Indian forces resorted to firing and shelling in Shahkot, Jura, Battal Karela, Bagh, Bagsar and Hot Spring sectors targeting civilian population. It said Pakistani troops were also targeting Indian posts and intense exchange of firing was going on.
Thus, it is clear from both sides that the border situation is heating up, though a full-scale war is not on the cards. But if the situation continues to escalate the low-level border firing could turn into a major war. Not long ago, the two sides were exchanging only small arms fire that became mortar and artillery shelling and we need not be surprised if it leads to a major confrontation.
If it happens, there will not be anybody to stop India and Pakistan from going the whole hog as the only power that can exercise restraint, the US, is busy with preparations for the transition following the victory of Donald Trump in Presidential elections. Even if India and Pakistan maintain self-restraint, despite ‘provocations’, border incidents could go out of hand and lead to a full-blown conflict. That’s what the leadership in both countries has to watch out for.
In New Delhi, and elsewhere in the country, the only issue that has been haunting people for a fortnight is demonetization. Every other issue, including the border situation, has been non-existent. Our Parliament’s winter session has been stalled for a week over scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes without making adequate arrangements to address the resultant huge cash crunch that is crippling the market and the common man.
Yes, the government in general and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular has terribly faulted in their over enthusiasm to flush out black money. When everyone agrees and admits that unaccounted wealth is a menace for the country’s progress and a scourge for socio-economic development, political leaders instead of debating the crisis with cool heads have resorted to negative and disruptive tactics.
Demonstration of lung power, hurling personal invectives and creating chaos in both Houses of Parliament won’t resolve the money problems. On the other hand, it only shows how ineffective we are in taking hard decisions that threaten the interests of the political class and big businesses.
Demonetization is a big step towards cleaning up the corruption-ridden society and it deserves in-depth discussions. But at the same time, we do have a lot of other issues that need to be addressed and legislated. Wasting Parliament’s precious time in trying to settle political scores does no good either for the people or the country. The money shortage created by demonetization is as important as the tense border situation thrust upon us by Pakistan.