Ceasefire violations along the LoC seem to have become a norm in India- Pakistan ties. Many note that since the 2016 uprising in Kashmir, following Burhan Wani’s death, disturbances along the LoC have spiked up. In the month of June alone, the unprovoked firing by Indian forces in Bhattal, Jandorat and Kotli sectors resulted in civilian deaths and prompted Pakistan to summon the Indian Deputy High commissioner to address concerns. India nonetheless, went on with its usual policy of trying to pin the initiation of LOC violations on Pakistan in the face of evidence to the contrary. Pakistan responded to each LOC Cease Fire violation and did so with deadly effect.
Similarly, last month as well, India incited tensions along the LoC under the pretext of Pakistan having “beheaded its soldiers”—a preposterous claim that Pakistan denies as it is against its military ethos and called for a joint investigation into the matter—a call that went unheeded. The Indian Army stuck to its mantra of ‘will retaliate at a place and time of its choice”. These accusations and counter threats are slated to become the norm. Voices within India, even from the military, are still condemning the Indian Army’s outrageous act of tying a civilian to the front of a jeep as a shield showing the new low to which Indian atrocities against Kashmiris have sunk.
India has been peddling the narrative of its ‘ lowering intolerance towards Pakistan’ – a stance which seems to be fomenting concerns within the International community in regards to the implications of escalating tensions between two nuclear armed neighbors. This, no doubt, is part of India’s coercive policy against Pakistan and a part of its declared policy of destabilizing Pakistan. However, what tends to go unnoticed is the often expressed Indian belief– that apart from inviting proportionate retaliations to Indian provocations– a full-fledged war is an unlikely option for either of the contenders. This belief was very recently reflected in Gen Rawat’s statement that ‘he doesn’t even anticipate a limited war’ between India and Pakistan.
So while, complete faith is embedded in the hope that pragmatism will not be forsaken; the most consequential issue then becomes India’s actual objective of perpetrating a stance of ‘lowering intolerance and possible escalation’ –if it thinks that a war is unlikely? Two likely linked objectives seem to be: diverting global attention from the atrocities in Kashmir and keeping the LoC active to serve as a diversion while it pursues its multifaceted geo-strategic aspirations. However, even if one discards the options of limited wars or full-fledged wars, a certain type of war is nonetheless being waged. This could contribute to possibilities of conflicts at a sub conventional level, regional unrest, exacerbation of regional fault lines, socio-economic stagnation of the region and possibly an enhanced scope of crisis instability. Thus, the adverse long term implications of such actions need to be seriously considered.
Furthermore, Dr Happymon Jacob of Jawaharlal Nehru University points towards another issue which requires serious attention— following the 2001-2002 India-Pakistan military standoff, the DGMO’s of both countries agreed to a ceasefire over a telephonic conversation in November 2003– the 2003 ceasefire agreement. However, the agreement is not a formalized written document and therefore, lacks a structure and specific provisions. He also adds that what makes the situation murkier on the ground is that even though India discards stipulations in agreements prior to the 1972 Simla Agreement, it still however, tends to utilize certain provisions on engagement from the 1949 Karachi Agreement and the 1960 Ground Rules agreement. Such circumstances, not only increase the possibility of misunderstandings and heightened tensions between the neighbors, but also puts the soldiers at both fronts at unnecessary risk. Indian policy of sustained pressure through skirmishes on the LOC impacts on Pakistan’s relentless and determined war on terror that has regional implications.
There is perhaps a need to formalize the verbal cease fire agreement into a comprehensive documented one by revisiting all previous agreements to pick up positive points and then eliminate the specific areas of discord. This could be done even without starting a dialogue. It should, however, be noted that a comprehensive sustained dialogue between the two countries remains the only viable option for progress.