The burning of a Pakistani flag at the Chaman border by a group of Afghan protesters is a regrettable incident, one that is bound to damage the already flagging bilateral relations. On its own, the attack – a small group pelting stones at the Friendship Gate – is perhaps the least serious border incident between the two neighbours in recent history, but coupled with the expanding crisis in Kashmir and the prevailing political tension in South-Asia, it takes a different hue.

The Afghan protest might have quite fortuitously come in contact with the protest in Pakistan against the Indian Prime Minister’s statements about Balochistan; had it not been for that convergence the incident might have been averted. However, it would be a mistake to think it is not part of the same narrative.

Modi’s statements led to a public response in Balochistan, which was supported by strong words from the Foreign Office, and provincial assemblies like Gilgit Baltistans. With the unrest in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) unabated, and drawing ever-increasing international attention, Modi had to fashion a reply.

He did so by calling in on his diplomatic good offices; first Bangladesh Information Minister Hassanul Haq Inu supported Modi’s statements, and now the former Afghanistan President, Hamid Karzai has added his two cents on the issue, backing the Indian Prime Minister. Mr Karzai, claimed that since Pakistan is free to make statements about Afghanistan and Kashmir, India is free to do so about Balochistan. While that much is fair, the rest – where he fanned non-existent flames by equating Indian oppression in Kashmir with Balochistan – is not only incorrect but also irresponsible from an ex-national leader.

However, this shouldn’t come as a surprise; since being replaced by Ashraf Ghani, the ex-president has found most screen-time while dovetailing with Indian statements regarding Pakistan. These sort of back-up statements have become a regular feature, and should be ignored.

The border incident grounds these words with a sense of immediacy and tension – and the fact that the stand–off is in its second day goes to show that. The Pakistani Government must be careful to keep these two issues apart. Modi’s intent, by bringing up Balochistan, was to divert attention from the unrest in Kashmir, and the rise in noise regarding the province serves just that purpose.

The closing of the Chaman border damages trade on both sides and sidetracks the government. It must make that part of its deliberation.