Millennium Post

India must not enter Pak trap

The Army Chief has paid homage to the martyred Indian soldiers, killed and mutilated by Pakistan recently, at their native homes. This reflects the ethos of the Indian Army and is to be appreciated. In roughly a decade from the ceasefire agreement on the Line of Control (LoC) on 26 November 2003, an atmosphere of hope has been vitiated to that of tension between India and Pakistan. The incident of 8 January and the heinous mutilation of the bodies of our soldiers is provocative.

The LoC separates the armies of Pakistan and India in Jammu and Kashmir. It was preceded by the Ceasefire Line based on the Karachi agreement of 27 July 1949. The ceasefire line as on 17 December 1971, taking into account the ground positions, was thereafter called the LoC, and confirmed by the Simla Agreement of 2 July 1972. The LoC has been delineated on maps but not demarcated on the ground. Hence it does not have the status of an international boundary. It extends from Chicken Neck in the South to Chorbat La in the North, covering 778 kms. Both sides undertook, to refrain from threat or the use of force in violation of this Line.

However the atmosphere along the LoC is that of a No War-No Peace posture. The troops deployed in an eye ball to eye ball posture are on a 24x7 operational alertness. It has been a theatre of active and heavy exchange of battalion-level weapons. It was the 2003 ceasefire which brought about sanity. Why then has Pakistan indulged in this atrocious act, at a time when the peace process was opening out new avenues of mutual cooperation and prosperity?
For one, historically Pak takes two steps forward and one step back in all its ventures with India.  Second, is the impending strategic shift with the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Taliban in Afghanistan would be in sync with Pak and they will be able to extricate some of its forces from the western front and reinforce its eastern borders.
Though the new military doctrine stipulates domestic terrorists as the primary threat, Pakistan’s army could either engage them internally or harness them externally in J&K. This incident apart from aiding infiltration of militants perhaps is the first step, to escalate military tensions on the LoC as a prelude to more proactive role in Kashmir. The recent visit of the Hurriyat leaders to Pakistan has also to be seen in this light. Since 2008, after General Kayani took over as Army Chief clashes along the LoC escalated. There were 77 ceasefire violations in 2008, 28 in 2009, 44 in 2010, 60 in 2011, and 117 last year. The traditional explanation by us has been that these are linked to terrorist infiltrations across the LoC but little serious effort was made to affect correctives to such violations. These could have been controlled early, which could have spared mutilation of our valiant soldiers.

There are other factors that have contributed to this unfortunate situation. On the internal front, the forthcoming elections in May, the impending retirements of two vital functionaries in Pakistan, the Army Chief Kayani and Chief Justice Chaudhary imply changing power equations, of all the three wings of governance. This is compounded by the extremely deteriorating internal security situation, with the killings of the Shias, the sacking of Baluchistan government, the ‘million march’ of Sufi cleric Tahir- ul-Qadri and the demand for resignation of the Prime Minister.

The other external equation, in the current scenario, favouring Pakistan is return to normalcy of US-Pak relations, the forthcoming nomination of pro-Pak, John Kerry as the next US Secretary of State and the resumption of US military aid which is more than $3 billion a year. So how does India react? The deep sense of anger across the country has been expressed in the media and in the radical stance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from which the government too has taken a cue. Though tough actions are desirable, hysteria is not the hallmark of a great nation. India’s problem however is that we have never imposed a price on any nation for action taken against us.
With a neighbour whose army motto reads, ‘Imam, Taqwa, Jihad fi Sabilillah’ or ‘Faith, Piety, Holy War in the path of Allah’, explains much. Jihad, in concept and execution, will remain. No doubt Pakistan generals, hope heightened tensions with India will help restore their image and extricate themselves from a losing domestic insurgency and push jihadist groups eastwards. India therefore should not be pushing itself into this ‘war trap’.

The options are two-fold. Firstly, the tough response by stalling various Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) which would hit trade and people to people contact. We could look at an array of military options foremost being an unrelenting domination of the LoC within the tactical battlefield and cause prohibitive causalities, to take on the terrorist training camps and even drone-like missions.  Such retaliation, Pakistan must be made to realise would be the price for their misadventures.

Secondly, India is on the way to becoming a regional power in South Asia, with eyes on a permanent seat in the UNSC. Economically, we are at a threshold of becoming an emerging power to be counted. Suspension of the peace process or going to war therefore is not a pragmatic approach. The prime minister’s mission of ‘unstoppable march towards peace’ must remain the cornerstone of our policy, a few hiccups notwithstanding.

The author is a major general, veteran

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