The relations between India and Pakistan are at their lowest these days. Pakistan says it has shot down two Indian fighter jets in the military confrontation. An Indian pilot – Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman – was captured by Pakistani forces and later released as a peace gesture by Islamabad. Moreover, due to continuous firing and shelling along the Line of Control (LoC) ground troops on both sides have lost their lives. Fears loom that if no efforts are made to de-escalate tensions, the skirmishes may lead to a war which may not remain conventional as both nations possess nuclear weapons.
Trouble started on February 14 as a terrorist drove a truck full of explosives into a convoy of Indian paramilitary troops in the Pulwama district of India-controlled Kashmir, resulting in the death of at least 40 soldiers. India immediately blamed Pakistan for the attack and on February 26 launched an airstrike in the Balakot region inside Pakistan. The Indian reaction was not unpredictable, as New Delhi has always blamed Islamabad for its failures. Pakistan bashing is an important feature of political parties in India during their election campaign. India will hold parliamentary elections soon and some observers believe that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi exploited the Pulwana incident for electoral gains.
Nonetheless, despite Indian airstrikes and escalation along the LOC, the response from Pakistan was mild and as a gesture of peace, the captured Indian fighter pilot was returned to his country at an elaborate border ceremony.
A simple calculation of the strategic capabilities of both India and Pakistan shows that none of them can afford to launch a war. Islamabad has on several occasions extended a friendly hand to India only to be cold-shouldered by New Delhi. Therefore, there is a need for a third party to initiate a mediation process for the promotion of peace and stability in the South Asian region.
Pakistan and India are both members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The combined resources of the organization and the importance it has in the region calls for greater responsibility on its part and expansion of its role in regional issues. All member states of SCO have agreed upon the combined agenda of peace, prosperity and regional development. They also agree on discouraging terrorism or any force which jeopardizes local or regional integrity. It is ironic to see two members of the organization fight.
The perpetual conflicts and outstanding issues between Pakistan and India or other SCO member states can find a regional solution on this platform.
The recent statements of the heads of SCO members and observers regarding the ongoing India-Pakistan conflict suggest that they want a peaceful resolution of the issues and regional stability. Why not, keeping in view the sensitivity of the situation, call a meeting of the heads of SCO members and talk?
Any escalation of conflict between Pakistan and India has the inherent danger of engulfing the whole region. Similarly, peace and good relations between the two will offer peace dividends to the neighboring countries. I am not trying to blame one country or the other for destabilizing regional peace, instead I am trying to point out the Achilles’ heel which may push the whole region into a nuclear catastrophe and which has so far slowed down the attainment of regional prosperity.
Regionalism and interdependence are gaining popularity and people have come to realize that there is no progress without peace. Hence, it is time for regional organizations to pay attention to the strategic issues of the member states, to bring them to a solution. It’s suggested the SCO immediately call a meeting of all members to discuss outstanding issues between India and Pakistan and improve their bilateral ties.