It always begins from nowhere at all. Both India and Pakistan accuse each other of firing the first bullet. Both claim to possess the power to annihilate the other while assuring that they are only acting in self-defense. Action, counter-action, counter counter-action – before one can begin to make sense of it, there are dead civilians on both sides. No one ever seems to know how or who started it. And somehow, it always ends before growing into a full-scale war. But this is what’s common between the two sides. In today’s context, what makes them different on the LoC?

Pakistan is sticking to its conciliatory tone. Of course, aggressive engagement with India would be a strategic and practical disaster. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while reminding everybody that the country’s desire for peace is not a sign of weakness, has reiterated the need to rely on diplomacy and has avoided the use of inflammatory language. In contrast, the Modi government’s language is aggressive and provocative. PM Modi himself has been congratulating his countrymen over the “befitting reply” given to Pakistan by the BSF. He believes that “times have changed” and that it is time for “goli” (bullet) not “boli” (talks). It must also be noted that the scale of the current wave of skirmishes is unprecedented since the 2003 ceasefire agreement. Have times really changed as Modi claims? How will Pakistan adjust to these ‘changing times’? Will it continue to play nice hoping Modi does the same, or will it change its script? Can it? Is any part of the ball in our court? And if Pakistan is hoping to garner the support of the international community, whats to stop India from doing the same?

If the recent UNGA session is anything to go by, India is doing much better on the global stage. Modi was a star in the US, and Nawaz was a nobody. By incessant big-talk, and the nationalistic narrative he has pressed forward, it would seem Modi is impressing and scaring all the right people. And what do we have to gain by sticking to our good-little-brother act? What have we got to lose?