Millennium Post

Ground beneath their shaky feet

Could the much-hyped meeting between the two Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan, that took place on Tuesday, 24 December, bring about a positive turn around in the frosty relations between the two neighbours? If the slowly emerging details of the discussions and developments furthered by the top-level rendezvous are any indications, the ‘peace protocol’ might not be that distant for the estranged countries, which have seen too many clashes of late, particularly the whopping 195 ceasefire violations across the Line of Control, or the shared border running through Kashmir, bringing the DGMOs meet, which was decided upon at the prime ministers’ meet on the sidelines of the 67th UNGA in New York in September this year, under a shadow of doubt. Evidently, as Millennium Post correspondent asserted in a report dated 26 December, the gist of the meeting could be found in the camera-friendly bonhomie between the two DGMOs – Lt General Vinod Bhatia of Indian side and major General Aamer Riaz, his Pakistani counterpart. Despite brief spells of testiness in the conversation, there’s still enough meat in the DGMOs’ discussion that indicates an inclination on the part of Islamabad to soften its stance towards New Delhi and a willingness to rein in the intransigent elements within its military wings and the rogue terrorist outfits that have been responsible for the countless breaches and incidences of violence across the LoC. Moreover, the DGMOs’ deciding to get together after 14 years, for the first time since the notorious Kargil War of 1999, that too on the Christmas eve, sends out a signal that quietly pushes for the possibility of a ‘political autonomy’ of sort in the case of the current Pakistani government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. In addition, the positive effect of picking General Raheel Sharif as the new Chief of Army Staff, succeeding General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has already begun to manifest in the mood of the nation, particularly its defence sector, which now has a top boss who has actively focused on the curbing domestic and international terrorism instead of trying to push the blame of Pakistan’s problems squarely on India.

Hence, in the current context, the Indo-Pak DGMOs composite dialogue has both an immediate symbolic significance and a much longer-term strategic importance, especially in the light of the soon-to-withdraw US-led NATO forces from the neighbouring Afghanistan. Both India and Pakistan need to step up guard on the Afghan border now, with Taliban extremists, both Afghan and Pakistani, guaranteed to try their best to breach the vulnerable other side and the Pakistani forces clearly in two minds whether the tie-up with the Taliban can be maintained in these changed circumstances. India, Pakistan and Afghanistan have joint needs to safeguard the subcontinental interests from the Taliban extremists, and in this light, a peace protocol between India and Pakistan should not be seen as a distant goal, but an immediate requirement to further South Asian geostrategic interests. Certainly these are difficult times, with a national election scheduled to take place in less than six months in India, and although a beleaguered New Delhi and a defanged PMO can hardly contribute much to the peace protocol, still, if the dialogue continues at the DGMO level or at other rungs of the military of both the countries, it isn’t half bad an idea itself. Obviously, for the peace process to reach the next level, even New Delhi needs to keep up the momentum, although it might alter its tone sharply if a certain Narendra Modi is voted to power in 2014.
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