Civil society activists in India and Pakistan have jointly urged both the governments to de-escalate military tensions and resume peace talks as deadly cross-border skirmishes continued on Tuesday.
The nuclear-armed rival nations have for weeks regularly traded shelling and small-arms fire across their disputed Kashmir frontier, called Line of Control (LoC), raising fears the clashes could escalate into a another war between India and Pakistan.
At least 19 people, mostly civilians have died on both sides within the past week, according to military officials in both countries. The fighting has also uprooted Kashmiri villagers living close to the LoC.
Pakistani Kashmiris carry placards to show their solidarity with Indian Kashmiri Muslims during an anti-Indian protest in Islamabad on Sept. 26, 2016.
Forum expresses concerns
A civil society organization, working for peace and understanding between India and Pakistan, said Tuesday it is deeply concerned over the escalation of cross-border firing in killings of civilians as well as troops.
The civilians living in the border villages are the worst victims as they live in constant fear of death and destruction, lamented the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum For Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), adding, schools have been shut in these areas and students are deprived of studies.
“It seems all these firings are being carried on by both the governments for internal reasons to satisfy specific constituencies of jingoistic nationalism, and offer little diplomatic advantage to either side,” said the forum in its statement.
The statement also asserted that any escalation of tension is against the interest of both the nations and the common people.
“We sincerely appeal to both the governments to take urgent steps to reduce the tension and end all cross border firing. We also request both the governments to immediately resume their dialogue as it is the only way to bring peace to the region,” said the joint India-Pakistan peace forum.
Indian Border Security Force officers carry the coffin of colleague Sushil Kumar who was killed in firing from the Pakistan side of the border, during a wreath-laying ceremony in Jammu, India, Oct. 24, 2016.
The latest flare up in tensions over Kashmir stems from a deadly militant raid in September against an Indian army base that New Delhi alleged originated from the Pakistan-ruled portion of the divide Himalayan region.
Days later, India asserted its troops conducted retaliatory “surgical strikes” on the Pakistani side of the border and eliminated an unspecified number of militants.
Islamabad denied in links to the September raid and rejected as “concocted and fabricated” the so-called surgical strikes, saying no such action took place on its side of Kashmir.
The military clashes have also rendered a 2003 mutual Kashmir cease fire useless, although both sides accuse each other of violating the truce.
Allegations and counter-allegations of sponsoring terrorist attacks on each other’s soil have also diminished changes of resumption of a wide-ranging peace dialogue aimed at normalizing ties and finding ways to settle territorial disputes, including Kashmir.
India and Pakistan last month also expelled each other's diplomats on espionage charges.