Millennium Post

New modus of violating ceasefire

Would three ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops and many major attempts to smuggle heroin worth Rs 415 crores seized  by BSF be significant enough indications about the future of the recent meetings between directors general of military operations and the border guarding forces of India and Pakistan? The first violation and two smuggling attempts were on 21 December and the other two violations on 26 and 29 December 2013 respectively. Many more attempts to smuggle heroin into India have been made, raise the possibility of a change in modus operandi.

It was during talks between Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York on 15 September 2013, that they agreed upon holding a meeting of DGMOs.

On 15 November, Pakistani news reports  stated, ‘Pakistan says that it is ‘hopeful’ that when the Pakistani and Indian Director General Military Operations (DGMOs) speak on 19 November, they will finalise a date for their meeting’. Pak PM’s Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, in an interview to Indian media, disclosed that the DGMOs could not find a mutually convenient date after the PMs decided on it in New York. The ‘breakthrough’ is reported to have come during the deliberations later in November between Aziz and the Indian leadership in New Delhi, when it was re-affirmed that this meet should be held as it was a ‘requirement’ decided between two prime ministers. On 29 November 2013, General Raheel Sharif formally took over as Pak army chief from General Ashfaq Kayani. And it was only after Gen Sharif taking over that forward movement on the DGMOs meet began, despite several reminders from India since September. While PM Nawaz Sharif, passed over two more senior generals to appoint his namesake, who is reportedly not related to him, the fact remains that it is only after Gen Sharif took over that the meet finally happened.

On 17 December, Pak army’s DGMO reportedly invited his Indian counterpart for a meeting on 24 December to discuss the ‘growing tension’ on the Line of Control (LoC). ‘Growing tension’ is too ridiculously mild a term for the almost 200 violations of the 2004 ceasefire in 2013 itself, by a combo of firings across not only the LoC, but also the International Boundary by Pak army/rangers, to induct terrorists and attacks by ‘battle action teams’ of Pak army special troops- cum-terrorists. This overdrive by Pak army/Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) is part of a pattern begun since 2012 as a prelude the drawdown/withdrawal of  International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan scheduled for 2014.

On 24 December 2013 the DGMOs of Indian and Pakistan armies met for the first time in
15 years and expressed the resolve to continue efforts for ensuring the ceasefire and ‘peace and tranquility’ on the LoC in Kashmir. The Indian delegation was headed by DGMO Lt-Gen Vinod Bhatia and the Pakistan delegation was headed by DGMO Major General Aamer Riaz. Following the two and a half hour meeting ‘held in a cordial, positive and constructive atmosphere’, when many issues may have been discussed, what Lt Gen Bhatia briefly stated publicly was: ‘We had a cordial, constructive and fruitful meeting. We discussed the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) and the existing mechanisms… We both decided to ensure the ceasefire and strengthen the existing mechanisms.’ A statement issued stated that two flag meetings between brigade commanders will be held on the LoC in the near furture to ensure peace and tranquility and the DGMOs decided to make their hotline contact ‘more effective and result-oriented’. They further decided to inform each other of inadvertent crossing of the LoC by any innocent civilian, in order to ensure his/ her early return.

Also on 24 December, a 13-member BSF delegation headed by its Director General Subhash Joshi crossed over to Pakistan via Wagah, Amritsar, for bi-annual talks which continued till
28 December. The issues discussed reportedly included airspace violations by helicopters and spy planes, prevention of illegal border crossing and smuggling, inadvertent border crossing by civilians, killing of people at the border and defence-related constructions, all in detail. Pakistan’s Punjab
Rangers DG Tahir Javed Khan, headed their group.

While space restricts a full assessment of Gen A P Kayani’s tenure, what stands out is that (a)  Pak army’s war on terror in its own territory, despite the use of aircraft and artillery, remains far from successful. How can it succeed, when it has itself raised and supported terror groups? Even those terrorist groups maintained by Pak army specifically for anti-India operations have killed many innocent Pakistani civilians, while others have killed many Pak army troops over many attacks. (b) The killing of Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad by US special forces in 2011 exposed Pak army’s/ISI’s complicity/conspiracy in installing him there and also of it being ineffective/a liability to US forces’ in their war against terror. (c) For India Kayani’s tenure meant rising violations of the ceasefire agreed upon by his predecessor, Parvez Musharraf, leading to unprecedented levels as mentioned earlier in 2013. (d) If what Yasin Bhatkal (of so-called Indian Mujahideen, raised/supported by Pakistani Lashkar e Taiyyaba) recently reported to have told interrogators that he was planning to set off a nuclear bomb in Surat is true, then the much claimed security of Pakistani nukes may have most likely been compromised during Kayani’s tenure.

Gen Raheel Sharif, son of Maj Mohammad Sharif is the younger brother of Maj Shabbir Sharif , who as a young subaltern was awarded the Sitara-e-Jurat for his courage on the battlefield during the 1965 war. In 1971, he was posthumously awarded the highest gallantry award, the Nishan-e-Haider. Major Narain Singh, who led the Indian counter-attack on the Beriwala bridge in Fazilka sector, which had been captured by Sharif and his men, too died in the battle. He was awarded the Vir Chakra. Gen Sharif, known as professional soldier and for his major contribution of formulating counter-insurgency training for Pak army, is reported to have identified the fact that the domestic threat to Pakistan is the most pressing one.

These incidents of ceasefire violation and pumping in of narcotics between December 2013 and March 2014 may not mean that the recent DGMOs’ and DGs of BSF and Pakistan’s Punjab Rangers meet will not have any lasting positive effect. Only time and the dynamics in Pakistan will tell. PM Nawaz Sharif, who has at least 55 jihadi members in his cabinet and was quoted in media to have made a mention of a ‘fourth Indo-Pak war over Kashmir’. It should really be fifth, as the fourth is continuing since the late 1980s. And if Sharif, with all the challenges looming ahead of him, submits to compulsions, as some Pak army chiefs have done earlier and also takes the oath at Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul, Abbottabad, of avenging Pak army’s defeat in 1971-in which he lost his brother-seriously, then there is no saying how long the present relative lull will last. While during winters it is too cold and snowy for infiltration across the mountainous LoC at least. But these incidents prove that on the plains infiltration is possible. And both the Tehriq-e-Taliban Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban as well as Lashkar-e-Taiyaba, Jaish-e-Mohammad  and a number of groups raised by Pak army/ISI for use against India looking forward eagerly for the drawdown of US coalition forces, to strike more freely in India and Afghanistan, there appears little hope of the peace and tranquility agreed upon during the DGMOs and DG border forces meet.

Either way, Indian army, BSF and all security/police forces will have to remain totally on guard and Indian government will be well-advised to speed up long-pending acquisitions for all three services.

The author is a defence and strategic analyst
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