Tensions flare between India and Pakistan | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 15.01.2013
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Tensions flare between India and Pakistan

Amid the warmongering on both sides and a flurry of diplomatic protests and countermoves, experts say that reckless killings have been a recurring feature between the two armies along the so-called Line of Control.

Despite India's tough posturing with Pakistan and strident cries for revenge among a section of the political class over ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC), the government looks in no mood to indulge in confrontation with Islamabad.

Tensions between the two neighbors has escalated over the killing and mutilation of two soldiers, one of whom was reportedly beheaded by Pakistani troops on January 8.

The line divides the Indian and Pakistani-administered parts of the former princely Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. While it is not an internationally-recognized border, it does represent the de facto frontier between India and Pakistan in the region.

Indian army soldiers return after a training session at the Siachen base camp, in Indian Kashmir (Photo: AP Photo/Channi Anand)

India's army chief has instructed ground commanders to be aggressive in retaliation

Islamabad has denied the charge and instead claimed that Indian troops killed one Pakistani soldier and wounded another, two days before the incident.

Meanwhile, New Delhi is downplaying a warning to Pakistan by the Indian army chief, General Bikram Singh, that India has a right to retaliate, as well as a call for his own troops to respond aggressively to provocation.

"We are trying the best that we can do to ensure that peace is not derailed," said Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid. "The cost of not having peace is much greater than the cost of investing in peace. Therefore, today we are still committed."

In order to build consensus on India's response to Pakistan, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon also met the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj and briefed them on the situation.

Precedents in the past

While sections within the security and political establishment in New Delhi are fuming over the incident, with some even demanding that the army "should get at least ten heads from the other side," defense experts and close observers of Pakistan point out that this spiral of violence has been played out in the past.

Indian security posts (R) are seen along the border between India and Pakistan in Suchetgarh, southwest of Jammu (Photo: REUTERS/Mukesh Gupta)

The Line of Control - the de facto boundary - is one of the most dangerous frontiers in the world

"Cross-LoC firing has been a fact of life since both countries went to war over Kashmir in 1948. Sporadic firing and wanton killing is part of the complex brutal messaging process between the two armies. With mirror deployments, both armies play a cat and mouse game to get a leg up on the other or 'sort out the enemy' in army lingo," argues defense expert, Shishir Gupta.

Former Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak said this particular flare-up would not be the last one and expected a further "boiling over."

"All this is par for the course. We have had incidents in 2011, in 2003 and as early as in 2000 when there were retaliatory killings from both sides. Some of them were very gruesome. But what is worrisome is that this is happening when both countries have invested so much in the peace process," said Kak, who is currently associated with the Centre of Air Power Studies.

Strategy to curb escalation

For now the response has remained verbal but the border tensions have already spilled on to the sports field. The future of nine Pakistani players in the Hockey India League (HIL) looks grim amid rising protests against their participation in the inaugural event.

Family members and Indian army soldiers carry a coffin containing the body of their comrade Hemraj Singh before the cremation ceremony in the Mathura district of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh January 9, 2013. India denounced Pakistan on Wednesday over a firefight in the disputed territory of Kashmir in which two Indian soldiers were killed, but the nuclear-armed rivals both appeared determined to prevent the clash escalating into a full diplomatic crisis (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)

Killing each other's soldiers is a part of a game of "cat and mouse," says defense expert Shishir Gupta

On Monday protesters invaded the pitch and shouted anti-Pakistan slogans during the inaugural match of the HIL in the Indian capital.

"It's becoming clear that a military-to-military dialogue is essential if the quantum of trust along the LoC and in other areas between the two nuclear neighbors is to be enhanced," said Pakistan expert Amit Baruah, who is the author of "Dateline Islamabad."

He believed that in India-Pakistan relations, the status quo had a tendency to deteriorate.

"We have seen this time and again," he adds.

While tensions rise, both sides are also aware that any conflict will lead to quick international intervention by great powers like US and China, the former with high stakes in Afghanistan.

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