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Restoration of Cross-LoC movement
There’s need to introspect on the perils of hostility and also add some momentum to peace process
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Restoration of trade and travel ties across the Line of Control after the hostilities at the borders and the initial confrontationist posturing adopted by India and Pakistan is a welcome step and needs to be appreciated and supported. The good thing is that better sense has prevailed over the administration on the two sides. However, there is much more that needs to be done to build up the mutual trust and reverse the damage that the short period of tensions have done to the cause of ceasefire, cross-LoC movement and over all India-Pakistan relations. The damage of the recent heightened tensions is far too spread out to be underscored or misunderstood as a simple delay in cross-LoC movement and further negotiations. First, it put into disarray the friendly ties at various levels between India and Pakistan, hampering and jeopardizing the people to people contact. The tensions stalled or atleast put on hold several other important confidence building people friendly measures like relaxation of visa regimes beginning with visa on arrival for senior citizens. It created space for frenzy of hawkish rhetoric and sealed the fate of several India-Pakistan sports and entertainment events and vitiated the atmosphere, the effects of which are going to be much more longer lasting unless the establishments in New Delhi and Islamabad make the effort to take the additional step of speeding up the bilateral engagements to set a new tone for creating a more conducive atmosphere and shrinking the space for hawks on either side. The far reaching consequences of the heightened tensions earlier this month can be seen in several impediments to the people to people contact, hitting first the sporting ties and putting a spanner on staging of events by Pakistani cultural artistes and now in the reported security threats faced by the Pakistan women’s cricket team in Odhisa.

Needless to say that the panic along the borders, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, is yet to be over even as the buses and trucks rolled out on Monday and Tuesday respectively. The panic the tensions created in rest of the state are also yet to subside since the tensions, howsoever short lived, demonstrated the fragility of the ceasefire and the peace process, pushing people further away from a resolution of the Kashmir process, which can only happen through peaceful negotiations between India and Pakistan alongwith the people of the troubled state on both sides of the border. The cross-LoC movement is still in its infancy and there has been tardy progress in taking the process forward from mere symbolic gesture to something more meaningful with lesser restrictions and conditions imposed on travel and a better mechanism of trade that does not solely rely on barter system and operates without the basic means of phone communication. Yet, the significance of the cross-LoC movement, howsoever restricted, cannot be under estimated since India and Pakistan have fought three wars and several skirmishes on the Line of Control which had become a fully sealed and impenetrable line for the civilians on both sides of the divide, partitioned and divided geographically by an accident of history. For the divided families, the marginalized traders, the restricted movement has been a great achievement in the last sixty years with the added benefit of ceasefire that for the first time provided the people living at the borders with some kind of a normalcy. The ceasefire and the cross-LoC movement atleast represented a fraction of the aspirations of the people of the state and has been a small but significant step towards further resolution of the Kashmir issue.

The tensions earlier this month paved way for jingoism and exacerbated the war rhetoric of the hawks on both sides. Amidst all this, the contribution of the several civil society groups within Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the LoC as well as in India and Pakistan, that rallied for peace and renewal of sustained dialogue, and their initiatives are notable. By understanding the pitfalls of the tensions and realising that the foundation of a stable South Asian region and longer lasting peace in Kashmir is possible only on the foundation of a sustainable peace between India and Pakistan, these civil society groups have played a role in pushing both the governments to end the hostilities and also provided an enabling framework for resuming the ties, atleast in bringing some semblance of normalcy at the borders and toning down the ugly war rhetoric. Now, it is for the governments on the two sides to carry this process forward, shed rigidity and mistrust and instead add some momentum to the slow paced negotiations over several bilateral issues and also Kashmir.
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News Updated at : Wednesday, January 30, 2013
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