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No country for peaceniks

No country for peaceniks
Former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee’s peace initiative of late 2003 with Pakistan’s former fourth tin-pot dictator president Gen Pervez Musharraf, led to a ceasefire, which held till Musharraf was in power. With Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani taking charge as Pak army chief from 29 November 2007, a new phase of cease fire violations began. Albeit modest initially, the violations then built up to 188 in 2010-2011, 93 in 2012 and reached to a crescendo of 96 in 2013. These are all conservative estimates. The meetings between DGs of Military Operations (DGMOs) and border guarding forces were confirmed and held only after Gen Raheel Sharif took over as Pak army chief on 29 November 2013.

On 24 December 2013, DGMOs of India and Pakistan met to discuss the ‘growing tension’ on the LoC. ‘Growing tension’ is too ridiculously mild a term for the almost 200 violations of the 2004 ceasefire in 2013 itself, by a combination of cross-border firings  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) of beheading Indian army soldiers and attacks well inside India, including at Hiranagar and Samba, were part of a pattern begun since 2012 as a prelude to the drawdown of US coalition forces from Afghanistan scheduled for end 2014. 

Also on 24 December 2013, a 13-member Border Security Force (BSF) delegation headed by its then Director General Subhash Joshi crossed over to Pakistan via Wagah, Amritsar, for bi-annual talks which continued till 28 December. Issues discussed reportedly included airspace violations by helicopters and spy planes, prevention of illegal border  smuggling, inadvertent border crossing by civilians, killing of people at the border and defence-related constructions, all in detail.

While Gen Sharif, on taking over, focused on Pak army fighting the Tehriq E Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Pak border rangers upped the ante along the IB from July 2014. DG, BSF D K Pathak, informed that for the first time since 1971 there was such huge volume of firing adding that Pak forces were targeting the civilian areas along the border under a changed strategy of using high powered explosives while targeting at least 25 locations to facilitate infiltration under the cover of repeated heavy firing from  launching pads Pakistan had set up close to border. After a DIG level flag meeting held at Pak Post, Inayat on 29 August, it was hoped that peace would be restored. But that was not so. Why? There are some reasons for Pak forces  going into a mad-dog-mode on the borders till August and again in October 2014.

For the second time in 2014, following the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government assuming charge, Pakistani forces went hyper, firing and shelling for at least 9 days in October across the International Border (IB) and Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, targeting and causing deaths and great agony to the civilian populace. Prime minister Narendra Modi’s comment of ‘our soldiers’ fingers on triggers and statements by the home and defence ministers, left no doubt about his government’s response pattern, which reportedly resulted in 35 Pakistanis, including 12 rangers being killed.  The retaliation by Indian forces for every salvo from Pak  was ‘immediate and intense’- as phrased by army chief Gen Dalbir Singh just after he took over. In view of  Pak military’s chronic/continued peace-breaking pattern and the chaotic state of affairs in Pakistan, what remains to be seen is will India succeed in breaking this pattern, or what all more it will have to do.

However, even as the talks between DGs, BSF and Pak rangers were on, there were three ceasefire violations across the IB of firing by Pakistani troops to induct terrorists/drug-smugglers, on 21, 26 and 29 December 2013, followed by many other major attempts- almost all to smuggle heroin, of which, worth Rs 415 crores was seized by BSF in December 2013 itself, were significant enough indications about the future of the meetings/agreements between DGMOs and DGs of border guarding forces of India and Pakistan.

As it is, Pakistan’s anti-Indian agencies had been smarting like never before at the sweeping victory of the BJP in the elections compounded by the waves made by prime minister Narendra Modi within India and other countries. Not accepting any nonsense/nuisance from Pakistan and retaliating swiftly and severely is another new factor as against the too weak/soft responses of the past government has been a rude shock to anti-Indian elements and organisations in Pakistan. ‘They are getting it back badly,’ Pathak reportedly said. BJP’s plans for J&K’s forthcoming elections are yet another major new factor.

In September 2014 came the worst floods in Jammu & Kashmir in over a century. A massive rescue and relief  operation code-named Megh Rahat launched with Indian Army, Air Force, Navy and NDRF working 24x7 for over two weeks rescued fed and provided medicare to  a few 1,00,000 flood-victims, restored road communications and replaced destroyed bridges. This effort continued undeterred in most challenging conditions of difficult terrain and inclement weather, despite  many services personnel’s own homes inundated by the floods and also despite Pak army supported terrorist attacks and Kashmiri separatists trying to sabotage their efforts.  The same Kashmiri Muslims of the Valley, who for decades had been motivated by Pak army/ISI and Kashmiri separatists to vilify the Indian Army were now genuinely thanking them for being selfless saviours.

There are reportedly up to 2000 terrorists waiting to be inducted into J&K and the rest of India. As per US President Barack Obama’s plan, announced in May 2014 before Sunni militants seized control of much of Iraq, about 20,200 US troops were to leave Afghanistan over the next five months, reducing the US force to 9,800 by year’s end. That number would be halved  by end of 2015, leaving only about 1,000 troops in Kabul after end of 2016.

During John Kerry’s July-August 2014 visit to India, NSA Ajit Doval pointed out that if US starts withdrawing its troops from 2015, it would provide an ideal opportunity to terror outfits to not only re-group but even neutralise whatever gains US and its allied forces made. Doval also clearly told the US delegation that a weak Afghanistan could have a direct impact of a major step-up of terrorist activities against India.

Already suffering from many militant malignancies and the new cancer of ISIS spreading to TTP, Pakistan, all the more so now, needs to take drastic steps for its survival. According to Mohammad Amir Rana, author of  The Seeds of Terrorism and Gateway to Terrorism (both published by New Millennium), five Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commanders including the militant group’s spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid have announced their oath of allegiance to Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi, self-proclaimed caliph of the militant group Islamic State. 

Pak army/ISI will be well-advised to break the TTP-ISIS nexus and seriously take steps to ensure that ISIS does not get a foothold or more in Pakistan.
Anil Bhat

Anil Bhat

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