It seems that there are forces out to throw a spanner in the works whenever efforts to improve relations between Pakistan and India get going. Right when backdoor diplomacy has borne fruit and a round of composite dialogue is just around the corner, a firing incident across the Line of Control has turned the atmosphere murky, reinforcing mutual suspicions that had, as ill luck would it, never disappeared in the 66 years’ history of the two countries as independent states. The backdoor diplomacy was meant to paper over suspicions and pave the way for the two sides to come to the negotiating table and settle the contentious issues between them. The Pakistan Foreign Office reaction to the firing, "It is unfortunate that such an incident took place at a time when the two governments were making sincere efforts to improve relations for resolution of all outstanding disputes" is an appropriate response.

The Pakistan Army maintains that unprovoked firing at LoC in Rawalakot, Nezapir sub-sector, by Indian security forces on Saturday killed soldier Asim Iqbal and injured another Naik Muhammad Khan. The Indians, denying the charge, allege that they fired in retaliation, but the fact that they came up hours later with the claim that one of their army personnel had suffered injuries, gives hint to a hastily constructed justification for the provocation.

The across-the-LoC firing incidents resorted to by the Indian forces keep taking place with unrelenting frequency. Under no circumstances can they be condoned or taken lightly in the context of bilateral ties; they only contribute to making the already tough task of normalising relations still more difficult. Our policymakers must put their heads together to comprehend the driving motives behind such bloody incidents. One unmistakable purpose is to keep the pot of tension in the subcontinent boiling so as to frustrate the objective of the talks.

Nevertheless, as is the Pakistani policy, the focus has to remain on sorting out disputes through peaceful means, and for that the only possible way is to hold negotiations. And it should not be forgotten that only a conducive climate will make it possible to hold talks in a meaningful, purpose-oriented manner. Meeting merely to exchange each others’ already well-stated positions on points of contention that have kept the two sides estranged would not help matters in any conceivable way; if anything, such attempt make for ‘talks fatigue’. Unfortunately, the two countries keep going back to square one.