Barely a month after the first forays by either side to resume the dialogue process,both India and Pakistan find themselves in an ever so familiar situation with the Pakistan Army plotting an attack that kills five Indian soldiers on the Line of Control,setting off an outrage which negates the sentiment Pakistans new Prime Minister is trying to project.
Could this be deliberate ploy by the Pak Army? Because it comes just days after terror bombers from Pakistan attacked the Indian consulate in Jalalabad. There is,however,a counter conjecture this was a retaliation to another encounter more than a week ago where five Pakistani militants were killed on the LoC. Its been alleged in Pakistan that these were innocent villagers.
Either ways,the impact is same. Both governments have started trading charges at a time when they were looking to achieve a new normal in the relationship through more robust economic engagement.
In fact,this has been the trend. Any effort to improve ties has instantly provoked such responses in the past,from Kargil to 26/11. Eventually,governments seek to move on without ever attaining closure.
But 2013 has been a little different. India froze the dialogue process after an Indian soldier was beheaded on the LoC. Condemnable as the incident was,the decision was a surprise,even to the Army,which had dealt with such situations in the past and knew well how to retaliate.
Broadly,over the years,a certain economy of violence involving the two armies had developed on the LoC,but that was not allowed to impact the peace process. Having altered this earlier in the year,India seemed to suggest that it has developed a more sensitive threshold to LoC-related violence.
By that logic,todays incident on the LoC is equally provocative and must generate a similar response. However,unlike the last time,when Pakistan was headed for polls,this is now a new government in Islamabad and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is willing to invest on Nawaz Sharifs words.
Essentially if the hard line was convenient few months ago,its not viable today. But how does the government explain yet another shift in position? It has raised the bar on Pak-sponsored terror by including LoC violence but has not even got Islamabad to appoint a judge to hear the 26/11 trial there.
Its this inconsistency that is eroding the credibility of the governments own efforts one which has its roots in the sharp divide within the Congress over the political handling of the terror issue.
Pranab is a deputy editor based in Delhi
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