India and Pakistan must put a lid on the present spat and work to improve ties
It is clear that what started as a minor spat rapidly escalated into a minor crisis, largely because there have been no sustained contacts at the highest levels between the two sideseditorials Updated: Mar 18, 2018 20:32 IST
Once again, India and Pakistan finds themselves locked in the curious dance of one step forward and two steps back. Both nations are caught in a spiralling cycle of tensions over a series of incidents of harassment of diplomats on both sides of the border, apparently by security agencies.
Islamabad has called back its envoy from New Delhi, ostensibly for consultations, though reports suggest he may not return any time soon, or at least till the situation improves. Curiously, the problem came to the fore just as the two countries had agreed, on March 7, to release women, the mentally challenged and elderly prisoners from each other’s jails, and to revive the judicial committee on prisoners.
After the tensions over cross-border terror attacks and the nearly daily exchanges of fire on the Line of Control, the breakthrough, however small, had been widely welcomed.
The latest diplomatic row was, apparently, triggered by actions by Pakistani security agencies that affected work on the residential complex India is building for its staff within the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad. This was followed by the intrusive following and harassment of diplomats on both sides, and truly curious incidents, such as the deputy high commissioners of both countries reportedly having the doorbell of their residences rung at 3 am.
It is clear that what started as a minor spat rapidly escalated into a minor crisis, largely because there have been no sustained contacts at the highest levels between the two sides. As of today, it appears only the national security advisers of the two countries are in regular touch but this channel was insufficient to prevent the escalation in the row over the diplomats.
This lack of effective communication was one of the reasons why there was another unseemly row over the treatment of death row prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav’s kin in Islamabad in December. It is in the interest of both to put a lid on the latest spat so that they can begin working on the bigger issues that are casting a shadow on bilateral relations.