The killing of five Indian soldiers in an ambush in Indian territory in the Poonch sector of the LoC is a hostile act which calls for a strong reaction from India.
The attack could only have been deliberate as the Pak troops crossed over and fired at the Indian patrol without provocation. The action is the most serious incident after the killing of two soldiers and the beheading of one of them in January. There have also been a series of other provocative actions in recent weeks in which a number of BSF personnel have been injured in firing. The attack has also to be seen in the context of last week’s attack on the Indian consulate in Jalalabad in Afghanistan† in which the hand of Pakistan’s ISI may not be entirely ruled out. Pakistan has denied the killings. Even if they were done by terrorists in army uniform, Islamabad cannot escape responsibility for them.
The incident sets back the move for resumption of bilateral talks and again casts doubts on Pakistan’s ability and sincerity in pursuing the peace process. The proposed meeting between the prime ministers of both countries in New York next month will also be under a shadow. In the past also whenever there were signs of a forward movement in relations an event in Pakistan has sabotaged it. The composite dialogue was hit by the 26/11 attack. When talks resumed later they were again disrupted by the killings and beheading this year. The Pakistan government has not acted with any seriousness on India’s demand to expedite trial in the 26/11 case. The Nawaz Sharif government’s expressed keenness to restart the dialogue cannot be taken seriously as long as there are elements in Pakistan which are intent on subverting the process. Whether it is a case of double dealing or helplessness on the part of the Pakistan government, it only further vitiates the atmosphere and makes progress much more difficult.
Lodging a protest with Islamabad over the killings is the routine response, and it has been done. India must read the message of the killings carefully before it moves forward. Has it done enough to secure the borders? The environment and conditions for peace are only going to get worse soon, with the Afghan situation also becoming a factor in India-Pakistan relations. Peace and normalisation of relations are the only options for neighbours, but there is the need for will and effort on both sides for them.