THE escalating tension and killing exchange of fire at the Line of Control that divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan is nothing but a lose-all proposition. No one gains from these clashes which have become a regular feature since 2008 — five years after the armies of India and Pakistan were able to seal a historic ceasefire agreement on the borders. It was to cease hostile activities on the LoC that had resulted in action and loss of lives until 2003.
As the things stand today, soldiers and civilians from both sides have been killed. Hundreds of people have fled border villages as their homes and fields receive the raining mortar shells and gunfire. Schools have been shut. A tragedy of unknown proportions was averted on July 18 when the Army, police and civil administration evacuated more than 200 children from schools. They were trapped because of unrelenting shelling by Pakistani troops in Nowshera villages in the Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir. Nobody would have owned the tragedy that was, fortunately, averted by the administration's timely action. India would have claimed that its villages were shelled by Pakistan and the latter would have made a counter-claim that it was retaliating to unprovoked fire from the Indian side. Both sides accuse each other of opening unprovoked fire and claim they only retaliate. If the two sides are to be believed, neither side initiates gunfire. However, this is not a fact.
Human tragedies on the two sides have become a recurrent feature. The answer to the evolving critical situation is not what generals of the Pakistani army say that they “would teach India a lesson with their retaliation”.
The Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa has spent most of his time in visiting the LoC and urging his troops there to target Indian villages and posts in the garb of retaliation to the “unprovoked” firing by Indian troops. The Pakistan army has counted many instances when the shelling by the Indian Army left their soldiers and civilians dead. The brunt of the shelling is felt the most by the border population. The rhetorical assertions of the Home Minister Rajnath Singh, when he said, “We will not count bullets at borders”, are not true. That strategy has not paid off. It has only escalated tensions. India has to buy the ammunition, while ammunition is doled out to Pakistan by the United States.
Looking at Pakistan army's geo-political designs, the fact that is that it has a vested interest in escalation of the tension at the LoC. There are multiple goals that it wants to achieve by this violent mindset. The escalating tensions on the LoC immediately bring international attention to the Kashmir issue. This is an old tool with Rawalpindi to bring pressure on India to resolve the Kashmir issue. This is also used to sabotage the peace talks between Delhi and Islamabad and has been witnessed since the times of the Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral in the 1990s. Whenever a step is taken for bilateral talks or meeting of the Indian and Pakistani leaders on the sidelines of international summits, Pakistani guns boom on the LoC.
Apart from that, Pakistan has an all-time interest in keeping the LoC volatile — for it pushes terrorists to the Indian side to replenish the militant cadre in Jammu and Kashmir. This gives a psychological boost to the existing cadre of militants since it delivers a message that Pakistan is backing them with men and war machines in their fight against the Indian troops. The Indian Army has to prevent that and act against the armed infiltrators who come through ravines, rivers, forests, and mountainous passes. Intruders have both the traditional and the new routes at their disposal. because of the tough terrain through which the LoC passes. The advantage of topography for the militants is a definite disadvantage for the Indian Army. Each and every inch of the 740-km LoC cannot be secured even if all of the Indian Army is deployed along the dividing line. Even the best of devices and technology cannot beat inclement weather and the hostile terrain to gain an advantage over the intruders. Ultimately it is test of soldiers' physical and psychological strength that helps them detect the intruders. Neutralising highly motivated and trained terrorists is not an easy task.
Pakistan has diverted most of them from its western borders with Afghanistan and hardened them with arms training in the rugged mountains. They wreak havoc on the LoC. Also, they get the benefit of cover fire from Pakistani troops. This leaves the Indian Army with no option but to retaliate with twin objectives of neutralising intruding terrorists and silencing the guns of Pakistani troops. The culture of flag meetings in defusing tensions has almost vanished. Now the Director General of Military Operations talk on the hotline and there are diametrically opposite versions circulated to media after that. Indians claim that Pakistan army has been warned against the misadventure, while the Pakistanis say they have told India that enough is enough.
The best course is to pick up pieces of the ceasefire agreement, which has been shred into pieces as of now, to rebuild peace. Such clashes serve no purpose. Pakistan should know that it cannot alter the geography nor can it sustain militancy in the Valley for long. India should recall 2004 when the ceasefire was most effective and the infiltration was reduced to a trickle. It doesn't require knowledge of rocket science to do so. It requires will to restore peace. A war-like situation serves no one’s interests.
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