In Kashmir, the spectacle of clashes on the de facto border is slowly transforming into a spectre of war. After two Indian soldiers were killed and another beheaded on Tuesday, seven civilians and three Pakistani soldiers died in shelling on Wednesday. The intensity of the flare-up is only going to increase in the coming days.
Since the Uri attack, when at least 20 Army soldiers were killed in a pre-dawn raid by attackers from across the border, and India's subsequent 'surgical strikes', the skirmishes along the border have been rising sharply. Earlier they were restricted to small gunfire and sniper killings. Now, they are becoming increasingly perilous, with artillery shells being used for the first times in years, victimising even the civilian population.
Although the exchange of gunfire at the Kashmir border is not uncommon, what distinguishes this recent flare up is the sheer scale and indiscrimination with which the two armies have been targeting each other. At least 40 civilians and many more soldiers have reportedly perished on both sides of Kashmir since the surgical strikes were carried out by the Army.
Due to escalating diplomatic tensions, the armies of the two countries have shown least regard to the 2003 ceasefire agreement, brokered by the United Nations, which had silenced the roar of machines guns at the borders and brought much-needed relief to people living there. In today's time, not a day passes without one or the other side claiming injuries or casualties.
In such a climate of antagonism, the people of Kashmir are the primary victims of any escalation, diplomatic or military, between India and Pakistan. Not only are thousands of people forced to abandon their livelihoods and the education of their children, but it inflicts psychological wounds on generations which no medicine can cure.
Most importantly, it prolongs the sufferings in Kashmir. Notwithstanding its costs, the media in the two countries has already started beating the drums of war with retired Army generals and former diplomats drooling in the comforts of their homes on primetime news that each side should "teach a lesson" to the other.
These self-proclaimed torchbearers of our morality miss the larger point that at the end of any war, the clashing sides sit and talk it out. War doesn't bring victory to any side. It only perpetuates death and destruction. If the world powers could engage with Germany after the end of World War II, what stops India and Pakistan from starting a process of reconciliation.
Under the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the relations between India and Pakistan have been on a roller coaster ride, touching a high on one day with the PM-Nawaz meeting taking place and tanking to an all-time low due to the continuing terror attacks, allegedly masterminded by Pakistan. There has to be consistency and it can only come if Kashmir issue is settled.
The climate of hostility which has prevailed between India and Pakistan since their birth in 1947 endangers the lives of millions who lives under the shade of gun in the divided Kashmir. The two countries have more pressing issues, like education, healthcare and poverty, to address than to waste their resources in ramping up their defence capabilities which end up victimising their own people.
Rather than training guns at each other and employing the outdated Cold War tactics to claim political and military gains, India and Pakistan must start a meaningful dialogue process which can end their decades-long hostilities. Our world will be a much better place to live in if there is a climate of love and respect for mutual coexistence rather than mindless acrimony.
The political and military leadership in the two countries owe this to their tormented people. They especially owe this to the people of Kashmir who have been at the receiving end of the Indo-Pak hostilities over the last seven decades of turmoil.