Millennium Post

High-risk strategy

Reports of ceasefire violations by Pakistan have increased since the “surgical strikes” were conducted on September 29.  Earlier this week, three Indian Army soldiers were killed by Pakistani commandos along the Line of Control in Machhal area of Jammu and Kashmir on November 22. According to the Army’s Northern Command, the body of one of the jawans was mutilated. The Army had launched an assault along the Line of Control following the incident. From September 29 to November 15, a leading Indian news publication reported that 279 exchanges of fire between Indian and Pakistani troops took place. We haven’t witnessed such a spike in hostilities between both sides since 2003. Deterioration of the bilateral political climate adversely affects the military equation between both sides. It’s hard to foresee scope for improvement in the political climate for quite some time. The informal ceasefire which came about on November 26, 2003, has been rendered useless. Some have attributed the recent spike in violence on the border to an expected change of guard at the Pakistan Army. Later this month, the current Pakistan army chief, General Raheel Sharif, is expected to step down. Despite speculation from certain quarters that he may not step down, the contenders for the top spot in the Pakistan military are all scheduled to increase hostilities along the border. Their bid to claim top spot has reportedly been driving the narrative of inflicting maximum damage to the Indian side. Why is the Pakistani military establishment averse to smoking the peace pipe? The general understanding is that in the case of a permanent peace arrangement with India, the army would lose its dominant position in Pakistani government. There is, however, another side to the story.   

One of General Pervez Musharraf’s objectives in ratcheting up military hostilities, which led to the full-blown Kargil War, was to internationalise the Kashmir dispute with the use of force. Of course, his objective remained more or less unfulfilled. Instead, he decided to further intensify hostilities along the border in the years after the war until 2003. Praveen Swami, a reputed journalist and leading expert on security affairs, wrote an interesting column earlier this week describing the current state of affairs on the border and how it relates to what happened between 1999 and 2003. “In the three years after the war, Musharraf ratcheted the pain up in Kashmir to record levels, a part of the story that isn’t often told or understood in India. From 1999 to 2003, India lost a staggering 2,125 security force personnel — in contrast, India lost 521 soldiers during the Kargil war. The attack on Parliament House in December 2001 led Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to conclude that he had to threaten war against this onslaught — much as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is doing now. The standoff that followed in 2001-02 has been criticised as pointless; the data, though, shows otherwise: from 2003 on, violence in Kashmir began to fall steadily, as Pakistan choked support to the jihad it had nurtured,” he writes. In other words, the Pakistani military establishment came to a realisation that its decision to ratchet up the violence against India carried financial costs that it wasn’t ready to bear. Yes, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons had indeed stopped India from engaging in another all-out war, but the expenses of a constant stand-off were too high. Along similar lines, Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to hope that the threat of an all-out war may deter Pakistan. Suffice it to say, it’s a high-risk strategy that could easily escalate to unforeseen levels.
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