“Borders are scratched across the hearts of men
By strangers with a calm, judicial pen.
And when the borders bleed we watch with dread
The lines of ink across the map turn red.”
This poem by Marya Mannes, apart from being stunningly beautiful, also lends to the title of a 2015 account of the Indian-Pakistani relationship, Where Borders Bleed. This makes it perhaps the most aptly titled of the many books on this subject. The border between the nations has been one of frequent “bleeding” since the two countries were hacked apart in 1947. It has stood, for analysts, as the stereotype bloody boundary where peace was most tenuously maintained. Even following the Cold War, as the world celebrated the end of history, both countries’ nuclear arsenals, combined with the conflict, meant the phrase ‘mutually-assured destruction’ could not quite be put to bed. Therefore, in the delicate border points of Western Punjab or Kashmir, any event is cause for concern. Unfortunately, a recent terror attack in Pulwama, Kashmir meant not just a vein, but an artery has been pierced in this factious region.
In Indian-administered Kashmir, a car was fitted with explosives and driven into a truck carrying Indian soldiers. 42 of the soldiers, sadly, were killed and a dozen more wounded in this suicidal horror show, which was carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan-based rebel group. If this was just a religious act of terror it would be already bad enough, but the alleged complicity of the Pakistani government by India makes it an atrocity of apocalyptic potential.
Regrettably, Pakistan’s history makes exoneration in this case a tough task: they haven’t exactly proven themselves strong opponents of religious extremism. During the war on terror, Pakistan constantly sheltered and hosted parties, both Al-qaeda and Taliban, from neighbouring Afghanistan. It was in Abbottabad, the north of Pakistan, Where Osama Bin Laden was finally caught and killed, and it is a mainstream opinion that the government wasn’t totally ignorant of his whereabouts. So, while the Pakistani government have denied all guilt and connection, it is clear why the Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that Jaish-e-Mohammad was not simply “Pakistan-based” but “Pakistan-backed."
Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has already promised that “Those who committed this heinous act will pay a heavy price” and that “Those who supported it will definitely be punished,” giving reassurance to the calls for retribution for the worst attack India has seen in 20 years. To this call, Imran Khan and Islamabad have assured a “decisive and comprehensive” reply. But while this cliched “sabre-rattling” of pre-war goes on, how likely is all-out conflict? Thankfully, many in Pakistan understand the mutual interest of avoiding this: “If Pakistan Attacks with One Atomic Bomb, India Can Finish Us With 20” said the former Pakistani Prime Minister, an understanding that comes with a sigh of relief. But, unfortunately, blood will be shed because of what happened in Pulwama. Already, in the Kashmir region of Jammu, violent anti-Pakistan protests have even necessitated a curfew to be imposed. So as the entire subcontinent is biting their nails, what action is demanded of the international community to cauterize this tension?
Kevin Williamson in the National Review was right when he demanded the US urge Pakistan to, for want of a better phrase, ‘get its s*** together’. But this is difficult to do with a country prospering from an advantageous economic relationship with China (who even prevented the group, Jaish-e-Mohammed from being added to the UN’s designated terror list in 2017). The US and the UK should side firmly with India and assist, if necessary, their attempts to hunt down the perpetrators. However, every effort should be made to quash the current schismatic tensions, and luckily Antonio Guterrez has promised the UN’s backing of talks between the two sides.
As for us, the helpless observers? We’ll hopefully not sit back and watch, with dread, these lines of ink across the map turn red.