New Delhi: With ceasefire violations across the India-Pakistan border continuing to escalate, experts are largely pessimistic on whether there will be any drop in the number of incidents, even as they agree that communication could be strengthened at the brigade and division level between the two armies.
Experts were discussing the reasons for the rise in ceasefire violations at the launch of a new website, Indo-Pak Conflict Monitor, on Saturday. The website will be monitoring these violations on a daily basis from open source data, study the emerging patterns and act as a valuable repository. It will also be a resource for analysing the larger India-Pakistan conflict.
This year, India has already reported 192 violations in the first month of 2018, while Pakistan has listed 400 violations till February 2018.
Opening the discussion, former Indian ambassador Vivek Katju, who had manned the Pakistan desk during his diplomatic tenure, said ceasefire violations should not be “looked at in an isolated way” in the India-Pakistan conflict.
Former commander of the Srinagar-based 15 corps, Lieutenant General (retired) Syed Ata Hasnain said that it was a wrong assumption that all the firing by Pakistan across the LoC was to give cover for infiltration. Rather, many of the violations took place in the Poonch and Rajouri sector, where terrorism levels had been zero.
He noted that it was being done to demonstrate that Jammu was also under the constant spectre of violence, just like the Valley.
“The second explanation is that it allows for the diversion of Indian Army’s focus and contribute to [allowing] actual infiltration to take place in the Valley sector,” he said.
There was also a spike in violations in recent months due to the weather conditions, with snow levels being very low this winter. “This has meant that the window of infiltration opened up in January, rather than in April-May as usual.”
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The reason that Pakistan has been interested in pushing for more and more infiltration in the Valley, said the formers senior Indian army officer, was to fill up the leadership vacuum among the terrorist organisations as most of the top commanders had been eliminated.
Raising the question whether the “LoC duels” have any purpose, Hasnain noted that it would be foolish to consider this as the staging post for a ‘war’ with Pakistan. “But it gives you the scope to maintain moral ascendancy,” he argued.
He asserted that there was certainly a valid case for strengthening local-level communications between the militaries stationed at the LoC. “It will allow commanding officers and brigade commanders to speak with each other and resolve the issue… At least allow the setting up of a flag meeting,” he said.
Senior Indian journalist Nirupama Subramaniam pointed out that among the “global hot spots”, the India-Pakistan border was unique in incurring almost daily fatalities. She pointed out that 20 people had died on each side this year alone.
“At what moment does a politician say that enough people have died at the LoC and now we have to sit down and arrest the slide?” she said.
Agreeing that there was not much political incentive to resolve the deteriorating situation, Indo-Pak Conflict Monitor’s honorary director and project head, Happymon Jacob, said that the violations were increasingly linked to political factors. He pointed out that Pakistan was going to the hustings this year and India in 2019, which further creates circumstances for continuing the current pattern of violations.
Jacob, who had got access to Pakistani side of the LoC in December 2017, said that his discussions showed that there was a “lot more pressure” on the Pakistan army from the civilians at the zero line to sit down and resolve the issue.