2018 might break the record of most cease fire violations in a year
Conflict along the line of control (LoC) — the dividing mark between Indian and Pakistani-controlled portions of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir — has become a permanent feature of India-Pakistan relations. Even as India and Pakistan accuse each other of violating the ceasefire agreement and of unprovoked firing, both also continue to boast that they are responding appropriately to the other’s aggression and inflicting heavy casualties. The number of ceasefire violations topped 400 in the first two months of 2018. Initially, Pakistan Rangers would resort to ceasefire violations for creating a smoke screen on a movement of Pakistan trained terrorists into the Indian side of Kashmir. If this trend continues until the end of 2018 then 2018 will likely record the highest number of ceasefire violations along the LoC since November 2003; when the ceasefire first came into force. Meanwhile, efforts to promote dialogue or confidence-building have given way to greater mistrust as Pakistan Military and ISI have been using dissidents in Indian Kashmir to simmer the issue. All in all the peace along LoC in the princely state is becoming a distant dream.
In just one recent example, on April 10, two Indian soldiers were allegedly killed in firing by Pakistani troops along the LoC. Twenty-four hours later Pakistan reported that five civilians had been injured in unprovoked firing by Indian forces across the LoC. Similarly, it has been time tested by Indians that unless Pakistan Military gets pressure from their civilians they do not stop ceasefire violations. Pakistan Rangers have not even left village schools and water tanks. It is a common plight on Indian side for the civilian population to migrate into military shelters till firing subdues.
Why Pakistani military is resorting to continuous cease fire violations
Tensions along the LoC are an outcome of the Pakistan Military not allowing a political solution and improvement of the political relationship between India and Pakistan. Pakistan military is looking all out for a vengeance for its 1972 defeat and loss of East Pakistan. India, on the other hand, contends that it only interfered after the genocide conducted by Pakistan Army in East Pakistan in which not even the East Pakistan Rifles were pardoned.
The deteriorating trust in Indo-Pak relations
Both countries believe they have compelling reasons for not trusting each other. Terrorism, ceasefire violations, and Kashmir are only some of the outstanding issues between them. Among the numerous other grievances are the Jadhav case and India’s opposition to foreign secretary-level talks following the Pathankot attack in January 2016. The dialogue between India and Pakistan remains suspended since then. Pakistan has been trying very hard to humiliate India in the international arena and with the change of government in India, the Indian Diplomatic corridors took to the offensive and Pakistan has been getting a fitting reply from India.
Ties between the two countries deteriorated even further following skirmishes along the LoC, including the alleged beheading of two Indian soldiers by Pakistan in May 2017. Some two dozen beheadings or mutilations of soldiers on the Pakistani and Indian sides have been reported since 1998, a majority of them instigated by Pakistan and avenged by India. Each incident was usually followed by denials of involvement by the other side. It is however clear that in Pakistan its Army pulls the shots and does not allow the peace process to progress ahead.
The problem with Pakistan’s Nuclear conflict threat
Pakistan has been projecting Indo-Pak conflict as a nuclear conflict. Its military and political leadership are not calculating the fact that the Indian Political leadership has little time for getting involved in an almost bankrupt country which is totally dependent on external financial assistance. Pakistan is also having its own issues with Iran and Afghanistan. Its alienated and stands alone in the international forums except for China which has been supporting it from a distance. The US had warned Pakistan not to think of it as a workable option as India might get stung but Pakistan will be history.
Spend on citizen welfare not on weapons
There are many reasons for improving relations between both the countries; one of which is reorienting the resources and efforts on to their people than on purchase of war machinery. Both countries only stand to gain from better relations. India has one of the largest population and Pakistan has one of the most backward and fundamentally radicalised population. Reducing hostilities would lessen the pressure to constantly increase the military budgets. According to reports, approximately 50 percent of the India army’s military equipment is vintage and also that its capital budget does not cover the committed payments of 125 ongoing procurement deals. Despite these negative trends in Indian Defence Forces, Pakistan will not be able to match India conventionally and efforts to do so would undoubtedly exhaust its already weak economy. Increased defence spending is intensifying the unnecessary arms race, in both nuclear and conventional weaponry. India has a reputation for being a responsible country and is not expected to start a nuclear war; however, the same cannot be said for Pakistan which has a record of violating international obligations from its side. Pakistan has a reputation of being a rogue state and acting mean.
Pakistan’s double standards
Pakistan’s decision to invite Indian officials to the March 23 parade was a step in the right direction and shows a softening of the Pakistani attitude. That Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s invitation to the Indian officials was aimed at sending a peace message to India is even better news. However, in a recent speech, COAS of Pakistan again accused India of thrusting a Hybrid War on Pakistan; which is exactly the accusation of India for the past 30 odd years.
The mixed signals and double standards of Pakistan are making it untrustworthy in front of the international community. One has to ensure credibility before making any such statements. It would be in the larger interests of the Indian and Pakistani citizens who will be most benefited with the de-escalation process. Hopefully, the Pakistan Army which actually pulls the strings comes to terms and allows the political leadership to take up the peace with India as a cause and not as a strategy. Peace in whatever form that exists today is due to the patience and large-heartedness of Indian political leadership which is at present exhausted its potential. Already Indians had conducted surgical strikes in Sept 2016, showing the world that it is not a slave of any peace process, but can strike at will if tested beyond a point. Pakistan has been testing the scale and stretching the patience of India beyond a point. The blackmail of Pakistan that it will use its nuclear option is not bought even by its allies like China.
Both Pakistan and India need to thing what is in the long term best interest of its citizens.
17 Apr 18/Tuesday.