WARMING UP, FINALLY

Yet again, India and Pakistan are exhibiting rare bonhomie across LoC and International Border in J&K. Last week, two teenagers from a Sialkote village in Pakistan infiltrated into R S Pora in Jammu on their motorcycle. Border Guards intercepted the two boys, and recovered an ATM card and their identity cards from them. During questioning, they said it was an inadvertent crossing and the BSF believed them.

Within a few hours, a flag meeting was organized on the erstwhile Jammu-Sialkote road and the two boys with their bike were handed over to the Pakistan Rangers. This repatriation indicates a massive shift the two sides displaying on civilian issues. Barley a decade back, a minor shepherded boy inadvertently crossed the LoC into Kupwara. It took many years for his return. Those were the days when the a young bride fought with her in laws and fled home and jumped into a river along the LoC in Poonch. The Indian army found her in unconscious state and handed her over to the police.

In jail, she was raped and actually mothered a baby. It took almost a decade for her to return home as the two countries struggled with issues related to the baby. A year after her repatriation along with the baby, the lady died. But the situation is changing now. In Poonch, a BSF vehicle carrying an officer and his driver was washed away by floods last week. While one body was recovered on Indian side of the LoC, another was traced on the other side. Immediately, a flag meeting was held and the body bag returned. The same happened in Kupwara where a PaK boy visiting his relatives drowned in a pond. Within 24 hours his body reached his home on the other side.

This is the way neighbors should behave and react when civilians are involved. These events speak volumes about the change on two sides especially in the wake of the recent discovery of a cross border tunnel in Samba. Though the age, purpose and the force behind the tunnel are yet to be conclusively established, it has not impacted the relations between the rivals. In this bonhomie, India and Pakistan should not forget J&K, a victim of the relationship between South Asia’s twins. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and opposition leader Mufti Sayeed have already appealed India and Pakistan not to ignore J&K while discussing bilateralism. Even Mirwaiz Umer Farooq has been very actively seeking more CBMs to pave way for taking up the much contentious issues between them. Trade and civilian movement across LoC is expected to be upgraded and liberalized in the coming months. Why don’t the two countries evolve a mechanism that would pave way for the return of nearly 35000 civilians who are living as refugees in PaK?

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