Earlier in October, gunfire at the Line of Control resulted in the killing of two children when Indian security forces opened fire in Rawalakot and Chirikot. In retaliation, the Pakistan Army killed three Indian troops. As this latest episode so grimly attests, the violence spawned through ongoing enmity between Pakistan and India continues to claim lives on both sides of the border. Hostilities have escalated to the point where Indian Air Force chief BS Dhanoa recently asserted that if India needed to carry out a surgical strike, his aircraft could target Pakistan’s nuclear installations and destroy them. Fraught relations between the neighbouring countries were played out at the UN General Assembly when India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj accused Islamabad of promoting terrorism stating that, “Pakistan is recognised only as the pre-eminent export factory for terror.” This prompted a robust response from Pakistan’s articulate Ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi, who said, “Repeating falsehoods year after year does not and cannot conceal or alter the truth.” But in her vitriol, she deliberately ignored the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.” As highlighted by Lodhi, at the heart of the issue remains the conflagration in Kashmir. Pakistan’s call for self-determination for the people of Kashmir must be paid heed. Suppressing the will of the people only compounds bloodshed and violence as the United Kingdom’s experience with Northern Ireland and more recently, the Spanish government’s handling of the Catalonia issue so clearly demonstrate. Given the rise of India’s hardline political narrative, the voices calling for peace, caution and moderation assume all the more importance. The extremism that has taken hold in Pakistan leading to frequent vigilante violence is also present in India In his maiden speech at the UN General Assembly, new Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi showed much more maturity than what was expected of him. Offering solutions towards achieving peace in Kashmir, he called for a UN-supervised plebiscite for the people of Jammu and Kashmir to ‘freely decide their destiny.’ In India, amid the strident voices drumming up the rhetoric for war with Pakistan are the politicians, journalists and social activists advocating for peace. In August, senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar called for an early start to India-Pakistan talks underlining that there can be no winners in a nuclear war. “We can fight them, but why can’t we talk to them?” he asked. Following her visit to Pakistan, Priyanka Pandey recounted in The Hindu newspaper last month, “I left Pakistan feeling there is hope for peace. We, as people, hold the power to shift the stories of our two countries. We can tell a different story, one that is based on our experiences and honours the reality of our people. The people in the two lands are not each other’s enemies.” In 2009, India’s great writer, the late Khushwant Singh cautioned against another war, “Sabre-rattlers, shut up. Let me repeat for the umpteenth time: there must never be another Indo-Pak war. If, God forbid, there is one, there will be no winners. Both India and Pakistan have long-range missiles that can ruin both countries. So let us tell the sabre-rattlers in clear terms, be they Pakistanis or Indians, that war is too serious a matter to be left to soldiers or politicians. Only common men, women and children who will be most affected by its impact, have the right to take this decision.” Given the rise of India’s hardline political narrative, these voices calling for peace, caution and moderation assume all the more importance. The extremism that has taken hold in Pakistan leading to all to frequent vigilante violence is also present in India. “Mob frenzy in India today is drummed up by jingoistic television anchors and vindicated, often on Twitter, by senior politicians, businessmen, army generals and Bollywood stars,” wrote celebrated author Pankaj Mishra in August this year. In recent times, relations between the two nuclear neighbours have fluctuated precipitously. India’s acclaimed author and politician Shashi Tharoor traces this back to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assumption of power, “Since Modi took office in May 2014, India-Pakistan relations have experienced more ups and downs than a child’s yo-yo.” This has had a polarising effect on both sides of the border with extremism, allegations of cross-border terrorism and communal strife on the rise. This was not always the case. While studying at Government College in Lahore in the 1940s, my grandfather, Altaf Gauhar, was best friends with a Christian girl, Champa Mangatrai who became a renowned English lecturer in post-partition India. Her sister, Priobala Mangatrai, is still regarded as the most famous principal of Lahore’s prestigious Kinnaird College. In spite of the different religious backgrounds, the upheavals and displacement of partition, my grandfather and Champa remained special and lifelong friends. Like so many others, their friendship remained unaffected by shifting geographical boundaries and capricious political dynamics. Instead of ramping up hostilities, the bilateral relationship must transform into one of peace and mutual development. The current situation remains exhausting, unsustainable and a dead end for both countries. However, without the requisite political will, peace remains unattainable. As India’s iconic leader Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is no way to peace: peace is the way.” The writer is the founding editor of Blue Chip magazine. She tweets @MashaalGauhar Published in Daily Times, October 12th 2017.