LoC ceasefire violations – India’s clear message to Pakistan

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley’s blunt warning to the Pakistani establishment to desist from ‘adventurism’ at the Line of Control (LoC) – “Be prepared to pay an ‘unaffordable’ price” – along with the Army and BSF’s punitive response have had a salutary effect. At least for the time being, the guns have fallen silent.
In blatant violation of the cease-fire agreement of November 2003, the Pakistani Army has been resorting to unprovoked firing across the LoC on Indian Army posts and across the International Boundary (IB) in the Jammu sector on BSF posts since the beginning of summer this year. The firing resulted in the death of many innocent civilians, particularly in Arnia village where 10 BOPs were targeted, injuries to many others and damage to property.
In all cases, the response of the Indian Army and the BSF was appropriate, proportionate and justifiable in view of the deliberate, bitterly hostile and extremely provocative actions of the Pakistani Army and Rangers.
It is obvious that the Pakistani Army and Rangers, who operate under the Army’s operational command, are working to a carefully drawn up plan. The aim is to take advantage of the breaches in the fencing due to the heavy rainfall and the recent floods and provide covering fire to infiltrate and induct as many terrorists into Jammu & Kashmir as possible before the winter sets in. Apparently, the current military establishment has decided to give up former Army Chief General Kayani’s policy of restraint on the eastern front with India while battling internal instability.
Under General Raheel Sharif, the Army has once again decided to raise the ante and give the flagging proxy war in Jammu & Kashmir a nudge. It is also likely that the Army wishes to divert attention from its counter-insurgency operations in North Waziristan, which have not gone as planned. Operation Azb-e-Zarb was launched in mid-July and has so far failed to eliminate the TTP from the area. Despite all the tall claims, all that has happened is that the TTP leadership and cadres have crossed the border and taken shelter in Afghanistan.  
The Pakistani Army is also conscious of the forthcoming elections to the State Assembly in Jammu & Kashmir, which it would like to disrupt. Each successive election that is conducted successfully drives a new nail into the coffin of plebiscite and weakens Pakistan’s stand on the issue. It has been driven into a corner by India’s insistence that the dispute can only be resolved bilaterally under the Shimla Agreement of 1972 and that there can be no negotiations under the shadow of the gun. India has justifiably demanded that terrorism emanating from Pakistan must end conclusively and that the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror strikes of November 2008 be brought to justice.
Above all else, under General Raheel Sharif, the Pakistani Army is attempting to gradually regain the strategic space that had been eroded after General Musharraf’s departure. Whether it is in respect of Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir or the Pakistan Government’s peace overtures towards India and Afghanistan or the Musharraf trial for treason, through its recent assertiveness – including its tacit support to Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri’s unruly street protests – the Army is quietly telling Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the political parties that support him and that there is a line in civil-military relations which must not be crossed. Raheel Sharif is a protégé of Musharraf and he will never allow his benefactor to be prosecuted.
If the Pakistani Army does not see reason soon, the 780 km long LoC in Kashmir and the 110 km long International Boundary in the Jammu district are likely to remain active at least till the forthcoming State Assembly elections are over. The civilian population of the forward areas will continue to pay the price for the Pakistani Army’s folly. The NDA Government must conduct a holistic review of India’s policy to counter Pakistan’s proxy war and formulate coherent and consistent policies that are not driven by knee jerk reactions to emerging situations. At the same time, it is important to keep a channel of communications open with the adversary both during periods of tension and even war.
The Government must come to terms with the reality that in addition to the elected civilian Government there is a ‘deep state’ in Pakistan and it must find the ways and means necessary to deal with it. India must target terrorists like Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi through covert means – if Pakistan cannot bring them to justice. Also, Pakistani spokespersons have been repeatedly accusing India of destabilising Balochistan from its consulates in Kandahar, Ghazni and Jalalabad – even though they are aware that the personnel manning the consulates are themselves under threat. If the Pakistani Army persists in violating the cease-fire agreement, it may be time to make the accusation of destabilisation a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The aim of all retaliatory measures should be to raise the cost for the Pakistani Army and the ISI for waging proxy war against India. The Indian security forces and agencies should hit hard, hit to hurt and keep hitting till the message is clearly understood.
(The writer is former Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi.)
Also published by CLAWS (slightly abridged version): Pakistan Army Firing across LoC: Raising the Ante in Kashmir