The long-standing dispute between Pakistan and India over Kashmir has witnessed fresh developments over the past few weeks as each side has accused the other of breaching the cease-fire agreement across the Line of Control. In the most recent development, the Pakistani government accused the Indian army of killing a civilian in cross-border firing. The Pakistani army accused the Indian side of "unprovoked firing" and shelling across the Line of Control in three areas: Battal, Chirikot, and Satwal.
Earlier this month the Indian government accused the Pakistan Army of killing five Indian soldiers in the Poonch district. Pakistan denied any role in that attack, but the event nevertheless quickly rekindled the longstanding ill-will between the nuclear-armed neighbors. It is important to realize that the recent set of accusations and attacks is threatening to derail positive overtures made by Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Bilateral talks were ongoing prior to the Line of Control incidents, and a date was being worked out for a meeting between the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif in the U.S. next month. Now all of that seems to be on hold. It will take time for relations to cool down, and a crucial opportunity may have been irreparably lost.
Both countries stand to gain immensely from improved relations. The exit of the NATO forces from Afghanistan will also open up regional trade prospects. It is important for India and Pakistan to resolve the matter in a peaceful manner via diplomatic consultations, as an escalation of violence at this crucial juncture is in the interest of neither state.
Despite the obvious benefits in maintaining a peaceful regional setup, both countries have followed the Line of Control incidents with aggressive tactics. Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar declared that all considerations of granting India Most Favored Nation (MFN) trade status had now been put to bed. This MFN title would have improved bilateral trade between the two countries . Both countries' armed forces have been suspicious of any developments, and the Pakistani army has opposed granting MFN status to India all along. Pakistan also summoned the Indian Deputy High Commissioner in Islamabad to report to the Pakistan Foreign Office in order to discuss the latest developments.
In retaliation, Indian Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh ordered troops to be aggressive and retaliate as needed against Pakistani forces on his visit to Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan is also considering closing its High Commission in Delhi amid fierce public protests and dangers of an attack on its diplomatic staff.
Pakistani-Indian relations that were heading in the right direction with Nawaz Sharif’s recent overtures are now back on the rocks. As beneficial as improved bilateral relations seem to be, the armed forces and intelligence agencies on both sides are deeply suspicious and oppose any reconciliation efforts. Line of Control violations are a manifestation of such apprehensions. It will now take time for the wounds to heal and for any substantial bilateral dialogue to resume.