Reports of clashes between Indian and Pakistani troops following the two Indian rockets that killed 22 innocent worshippers in a village in Azad Kashmir are indications of further tension and possible bloodshed.
In Pakistan, opposition and the government strongly demonstrated their unity and solidarity to defend the country against any possible threat from India while President Farooq Leghari and Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto consulted with the top military command to discuss the threat from across the border. On the other side, according to an Indian defense spokesman in Jammu, the winter capital of India-held Kashmir, "Indian troops in forward positions remained on high alert but were exercising restraint".
India, for the last few years, has been frustrated by its inability to quell the uprising of the Kashmiris who want to exercise their God-given right of self-determination. Indian security forces in Kashmir have killed over 30,000 innocent Kashmiri men, women and children in the past few years.
Till now it has not dawned on Prime Minister Narasimha Rao of India that the Kashmir dispute is not one of territory. It is one of human dignity, of the inalienable right of every human society to decide its destiny. The determination of a nation of 14 million people to live in dignity or die in honor cannot be destroyed with bullets or rockets. Neither are protracted negotiations or devious diplomacy likely to resolve it without the active participation of Kashmiri leaders.
With all this tension in the background, Indian leaders will do well to serve their country by asking the government to sit with genuine Kashmiri leaders and look into their needs.
The Indian press should also play a responsible role, and not look around for villains. Unnecessary hysteria is being created in the Indian press and they have begun to believe their own lies. At a time when cool minds should think of calming a somewhat stormy period in relations, the Indian press is indulging in jingoism. This, I feel, is a very disastrous and dangerous game.
It is important that the media uncover and investigate. I myself am not for a tame press. However, I believe that, there should be a responsible press which should keep the country's best interest at heart.
Beating war drums is just not doing that.
Dialogue between Delhi and the Kashmiris which was on the horizon has now been ruled out by the Congress government which is racked with internal rivalry, corruption charges and an inability to control the regions which it had a strong base.
On the other hand, Hindu extremism has been on the increase and the signs are that Hindu fascist leader Bal Thackeray and his anti-Muslim party, Shiv Sena, would gain substantially in the coming elections. The Hindu fundamentalist party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is already preening itself as the future rulers of India.
The nervous Congress government of Narasimha Rao had to improvise to stop the flow of its supporters to the other side.
It built up a sensation in the media by focusing on India's military might and urged people to focus on India's Republic Day where a display of its latest military power is being made.
Domestically this jingoism acts as food for the millions of hungry people. India's arms imports, which account for a whopping share of the national budget, cuts through its economic programs. A large chunk goes to crush the uprising in Kashmir. It seems not to have dawned on the government that diverting a fraction of the budget could be better used to provide education and drinking water for 215 million people.
Recently, Indians tested their surface to surface missile, Prithvi, not only to frighten Kashmiris but also Pakistan and other states in the region.
The message for all, including the Gulf countries, is that India is too powerful to take notice of world opinion on its military development and nuclear capability. However, the hidden agenda in the message was that India possesses the political will to use this might in the region in the quest of its hegemony.
The states in the region better watch out and be vigilant.