Politics: (Pakistan must take immediate notice of Indian shelling in Sialkot sector: Sherry Rehman)

ISLAMABAD: Taking note of repeated incidents of Indian shelling in the Sialkot sector, Vice President of PPP, Senator Sherry Rehman on Monday said that it was entirely unacceptable.

In a statement here, she said the Sialkot sector is not in any contested area, nor is it near the Line of Control, then why Indian Border Security Forces firing at innocent civilians in the plains of the Punjab, where no unchecked border traffic is possible.

“We hear disturbing reports of homes and infrastructure along the Sialkot Working Boundary being damaged by heavy mortar shelling from the Indian side,” she said. The Chenab Rangers have naturally retaliated, but this is not the first time Pakistan’s civilians have been targeted this way in the space of less than a year.

“Action like this in a nuclear neighbourhood is neither safe nor responsible,” she said, pointing out the dangers of such accelerated hostile activity in theatres where potential as well as old conflicts are clear and present.

“Yet, I do not see the international community rushing to scotch this fire. Pakistan has been reaching out to India regularly and at multiple forums, but all such initiatives have been met with no clear policy response from India, except public conditions,” Sherry added.

“The Modi government must decide the path it wants to chart for India. Does it want to be seen as a celebrator of war, as in the 1965 war carnival it has organized, or as a party that like its earlier avatar in Vajpayee, made bold strides for changing the game in South Asia?” she asked.

“I believe the way forward is to wind down such border hostilities by setting up communication channels and protocols for field commanders in sensitive areas. This is not rocket science; we already have some key field CBMs in place between DGMOs since Benazir Bhutto’s times. They need to be built upon and made operationally viable in other areas,including more talks between both sides, to deconstruct decades of existential distrust,” said Sherry.

“But operational exchanges too will have little meaning or sustainability until they are embedded ?in a strategic culture of changing bilateral course in the neighbourhood.

She said it is high time the region’s development potential was realised better by two neighbours who need to talk, and Friday’s meeting between the two Prime Ministers on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Ufa provides a timely window for diplomatic do-over.

Threatening Pakistan with military muscle or coercive messaging is not going to work,” she concluded, adding,”Muscular behaviour will only fuel extremism in both countries, and for that we should all have no room for equivocation.”