Millennium Post

Respond with caution to ceasefire violations

There would be many, especially from the media, feeling sad at the lost opportunity to report a full-blown war between India and Pakistan. The stories of Pakistani brutality have occupied major space in the weekly columns of respected commentators and an innocuous comment made by the Chief of Air Staff at the briefing during the Republic Day camp have become screaming headlines in some of the newspapers.

Howsoever some of the news channels and newspapers may scream about the nation getting outraged at the decapitation of the corpses of Indian soldiers and some of the commentators going on to recall despicable tales of barbarity indulged into by the Afridi clan against the British army during the Anglo-Afghan war nearly a century-and-half ago, the fact remains that the ‘nation’ certainly doesn’t want a war.

The incidents of the past week or fortnight at the border has come to garner attention as the Pakistanis violated war ethics and code of conduct by carrying away the severed head of the Indian soldier as a trophy.

However, it’s also to be noted that there had been ongoing skirmishes both along the international border and Line of Control (LoC) at least for the past six months. During these cross border firing, the death of Lance Naiks Sudhakar and Hemraj are not the first to be reported.

As mentioned earlier, the recent killings came to be noticed because of the brutality the Pakistani army indulged into, by dismembering the body of the two Indian jawans. However, while recalling the Pakistani brutality, we should not miss out on the fact that the assault on the Indian side in the Poonch area was preceded by a similar and justified assault from this side in the Uri sector,  killing a Pakistani soldier at Sawan Patra post.

Though never in agreement with former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s policies, for once this writer cannot help and agree with his demand to maintain ceasefire at all costs. ‘We stress on the need of maintaining spirit of the ceasefire all along the Line of Control (LoC) at any cost”, Sayeed said adding that peace on the borders was in the interest of Jammu and Kashmir people because its they who bear brunt of the hostility between the two countries.

War cannot be allowed to be an option in the Indo-Pak relation. This, however, is not a suggestion to condone Pakistani action in Poonch. India’s ‘controlled response’, to use the words of ministry of external affairs, too has been appropriate and it caused enough consternation in the Pak Foreign Office to summon Indian envoy in Islamabad and hand him over a demarche.

Some would point out that even the Chief of Army Staff has talked tough. At the annual Army Day press conference General Bikram Singh said that the beheading of a soldier by Pakistan on the Line of Control was ‘unpardonable’. General Singh also warned that India’s military will retaliate aggressively in case of any further provocation. But the General was also sagacious enough to mention that the ceasefire, in place since November 2003, has been holding except for ‘some aberrations’, for which he, nonetheless, squarely blamed Pakistan. Gen Singh, at the Press briefing, discounted the possibility of the skirmish leading to a full-fledged war and was dismissive of Pakistan’s nuclear blackmail, saying it had no relation to the local conflict.

A very candid General also did not rule out an enquiry at a future date into the ‘tactical errors’ which may have been committed by the local unit but as of now he made clear that he believed in holding the hands of his commanders, whom he commended for doing a great job along the Line of Control.

In the midst of the hard talk over tension on the LoC, the point which is not to be missed is that trade and peace held on in other areas during the trying circumstances. Trucks and buses crossed into either side at Wagah in Punjab and Kaman bridge in Kashmir valley. Trade between the two rival nations has been prospering for nearly a decade now and there is no way that one could reverse the process.

There is another issue which cannot be overlooked is the fact that a civilian government, howsoever discredited President Asif Ali Zardari may be, has managed to stay in power for five years and the political parties in the strife-torn nation are looking forward to the next polls, which are due later this year. If the election goes through as planned, it would be for the first time in 65-year history of Pakistan that one democratically elected government would come to be replaced by another without the interruption of a military regime.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government, if the popular mood in the country is any indicator, is likely to be replaced by a government led by Pakistan Muslim League (PML) leader Nawaz Sharif. The PML leader does enjoy sympathy on this side of the border having been part of the pre-Kargil peace initiatives which included starting a New Delhi-Lahore bus service. Sharif’s last initiative was derailed by the Parvez Musharaff-led military regime. India’s response will have to take into account whether violations at LoC are part of a design to derail democratic process in the neighbouring nation.

Sidharth Mishra is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and consulting editor, Millennium Post
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