India, Pakistan papers back talks to ease border tensions

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Villagers have taken shelter in army bunkers

India and Pakistan have accused each other of starting the exchange of fire on the border in the disputed region of Kashmir. BBC Monitoring's Vikas Pandey looks at how papers in the two countries have been reporting the clashes.

Pakistani Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said his country would "respond befittingly to Indian aggression" but it did not want confrontation.

His Indian counterpart, Arun Jaitley, had earlier said Pakistan would be made to pay an "unaffordable" price if it persisted with "adventurism".

Papers in both India and Pakistan have been reflecting "the strong position" taken by the leaders of the two countries.

In India, papers have given front-page coverage to the story since Monday.

The Tribune's headline reads: "Will make it unaffordable for you, India tells Pakistan". And a front-page headline in the Deccan Herald says: "Government gives army free hand to take on Pakistan."

Image source, Hindustan Times

The paper, in an editorial, said that "in the coming days, if Pakistani soldiers continue to violate the ceasefire agreement, they will be met with even stronger retaliation".

Pakistani papers are also not far behind in writing "nationalistic" headlines. Most Pakistani papers have been urging their army to give India a "befitting" reply, and blame Delhi for the "unprovoked" firing.

Image source, Pakistan Today

However, such headlines are hardly surprising. Papers in India and Pakistan trade accusations whenever border clashes erupt, largely echoing popular sentiments and their respective government's official lines.

Nationalistic headlines are not limited to border clashes in both countries. Papers appear at loggerheads even when the neighbours clash in cricket or any other big sporting event.

So what's different this time?

The answer lies beyond the front pages of Pakistani and Indian newspapers.

'No room for war'

Newspapers in both countries have largely not been able to explain the sudden exchange of fire, but there is a sense of disappointment in editorials and commentaries.

Bilateral relations between the two countries received a much-needed fillip when Indian PM Narendra Modi invited his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony in May.

The invite was described as part of Mr Modi's larger policy of integrating South Asia and helping India take a leadership role in the region.

However, India called off the scheduled peace talks with Pakistan in August after its high commissioner in Delhi met Kashmiri separatist leaders.

Kashmir, claimed by both India and Pakistan, has been a flashpoint for more than 60 years and the South Asian rivals have fought two wars and a limited conflict over the region.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Ties seemed to warm when Indian PM Narendra Modi (R) invited Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony

And the region is back in the spotlight again as the two rivals are clashing along the disputed border in Kashmir.

In such a backdrop, any mention of peace talks seems impossible. But papers on both sides of the border feel that both Delhi and Islamabad need to de-escalate the situation through talks.

Beyond their front-page headlines, most papers seem to be advocating some form of talks to save the lives of affected civilians. At least 19 civilians have died in the clashes.

Pakistani daily Dawn says "India blames Pakistan, Pakistan blames India; meanwhile, the worst sufferer is the civilian population on either side of the divide".

The paper has urged the two countries to come to the talking table as soon as possible.

The Express Tribune too says there is "no room for war" and "diplomatic channels remain open and they must be used to their fullest extent".

"The low-intensity conflict between India and Pakistan has for decades drained the physical and human resources of both countries, taken a steady toll on military and civilian lives on both sides, and apart from ensuring that military budgets remain cripplingly high, little or nothing has been gained," it says.

Pakistan Urdu newspapers are also advocating peace.

The Daily Express says "India could turn the whole region into piles of ashes through any irresponsible act", but asks the "UN and other world organisations to play their role for peace".

The Jang newspaper says "the disputed matters should be resolved and progress should be made towards peace and prosperity".

In India, papers back the government's response to the situation, but feel talks are the best way to deal with the situation.

The Indian Express says "civilians on both sides have died" and Mr Modi needs to do "the smart thing" and "take a step back".

"Both sides need to serve national interest, not pride," advises The Tribune.

The paper adds that "civilians are dying on both sides, and that is not collateral damage, as both armies would have us believe".

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.