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Peace comes only from strength

It is somewhat disquieting that India is showing a willingness to back down from its stand that talks can start only after terrorism from across the border ceases.

Words won’t be enough to condemn the barbarism of Pakistan’s notorious Border Action Team, whose members mutilated the body of the BSF jawan who was ambushed while patrolling the international border in Ramgarh sector of J&K’s Samba district earlier this week. A rescue team of Indian forces could find no trace of the martyr for the whole day as attempts to establish contacts with the Pakistani Rangers did not succeed. Finally, the body was discovered with the worst kind of abuses, the mention of which itself is a spine-chilling experience for every Indian.

By no stretch of imagination can this be considered a stray incident. In fact, there is a clear pattern in such occurrences. Whenever there is talk of peace between India and Pakistan, there have been attempts from across the border to vitiate the atmosphere through such brutalities, enacted by state players. The latest incident comes amidst a thaw to resume talks between the two sides after PM Modi sent a felicitation message to Imran Khan on his assuming office and the new premier reciprocated the gesture, though belated, with the suggestion that talks be resumed, first at the level of officials. Accordingly, a meeting has been proposed on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.

Given that prime minister Imran Khan is the product of the military establishment, whose very existence is predicated on hatred towards India, as well as the former cricket captain’s own known dispositions in this matter, there is no reason to read anything substantive in his suggestion for peace talks. The possible meeting between external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi must be used to convey a message in no uncertain terms that barbaric acts such as the one committed to the BSF jawan will not go without consequences. There is no point in sermonising to the barbarians; they must be spoken to only in the language they understand.

It is somewhat disquieting that India is showing a willingness to back down from its stand that talks can start only after terrorism from across the border ceases. Curiously, the softening has happened within weeks of the visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who came to India after a stop-over in Islamabad. It is also not without significance that the US state department has welcomed the exchange of messages between Modi and Imran Khan. While the new trajectory in Indo-US defence ties may have its long-term benefits, there should be no question of our independent foreign policy being subordinated to considerations that may be more relevant to others than us. The Modi government may have its own compulsions for some soft pedalling, but such reasons are not likely to cut ice with the Indian people.

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