LoC killings: How should India deal with Pakistan?

By Manisha Singh | Updated: Aug 12, 2013, 23:11 PM IST

Double speak, in a state of denial and a habitual offender - This encapsulates our neighbour Pakistan whose Army killed five Indian soldiers in an ambush in the wee hours of 06 August along the Line of Control (LoC). As usual Pakistan denied having played a role in the incident and its Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, in what sounded lame, expressed profound grief and sadness at the ‘loss of lives’, and also expressed his desire to meet his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh next month.

When Nawaz Sharif became the PM of Pakistan for the third time, he had spoken words, which seemed positive and heart-warming at that time. He had talked about India and Pakistan having the same culture and tradition and stressed that good bilateral ties between the two countries were beneficial for all. However, whatever Pakistan says has to be taken with a pinch of salt or shall we say a large pinch of salt. Did we in India really believe that a change in regime would change the ways of our hostile neighbour? Did we really believe that Pakistan would stop meddling in Jammu and Kashmir and that it would stop indulging in cross-border terrorism? Not the least.

Also, did we believe that the democratically elected government in Pakistan would finally be able to rein in the Army and its notorious spy agency - the ISI - and get a grip on what the men in uniform indulge in? No, again. So, the killings of our men at the border have only reinforced certain truths about our neighbour that we are already aware of.

That the Army in Pakistan is law unto themselves and that it will probably take a long time before the men in uniform in our neighbouring country learn to take orders from the democratically elected civilian leadership there. Nawaz Sharif, in the run up to the polls, had said that the last word should be of those who people vote for. However, in all likelihood, it does not seem that Sharif has been able to control the Army – at least not fully. So before Sharif talks to India, he should get a grip on the Army, the ISI, the Taliban and the Punjabi jehadis. If Sharif cannot do all of the above, then what is the point of talking and what exactly will the talks yield?

Yes, when you are neigbours, you ought to talk – for peace and trade and so on. But then, talks and bloodshed cannot go together. India has to convey to Pakistan that dispute resolution can only happen, if and only if, Islamabad is honest in its approach towards New Delhi.

It is being said that the attack on our soldiers may have been in retaliation to an alleged abduction of four PoK residents from the LoC in Neelum Valley on July 28 by the Indian troops. However, the Indian Army officials have denied any knowledge of the alleged abductions.

It is also being said that terror operators and the Army in Pakistan do not want Indo-Pak talks to go ahead. Giving credence to this assumption, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid expressed apprehension that the killings of our soldiers may have been to sabotage talks between the two countries. Hence, the continued ceasefire violations along the LoC, renewed militant attacks in Kashmir, infiltration bids by militants from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on our side and attacks on Indian positions in Afghanistan, with US troops in a withdrawal mode in the region, are all but a firm indication in this regard.

The recent suicide bomb attack on Indian Consulate in Jalalabad can be seen as an attempt to drive India out of Afghanistan, which is alleged to have been carried out by the Lashkar-e-Toiba. A section of Pakistan’s all-powerful Army commanders are of a view that after the US withdraws from Afghanistan, it would be easy to shift focus back on J&K and India. An indication in this regard came recently when Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed warned that a full scale jihad would begin soon in Kashmir and all corners of India. The fact is that LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen and the Pakistani Army are hand-in-gloves in their plans to destabilise India, and in such a situation, if Sharif wants India, Pakistan to continue talks, then he should also tell us in clear terms as to what he is bringing to the table.

Having said that, it is imperative to say that the Pakistani PM cannot be given a clean chit as far as the recent killings are concerned - maybe he was aware of the plans to kill our soldiers. Yes, not many in India have forgotten that Sharif was at the helm when Kargil happened in 1999, even though he has, time and again, said that he was not aware of what General Pervez Musharraf and his men were upto. Or maybe, the flip side is that he was caught by surprise at what happened at the LoC on August 06. Perhaps, that is why he expressed remorse at the killings and is still keen to meet Manmohan Singh, knowing very well that given the outrage all over the country, the talks between the two PMs on the sidelines of UN’s General Assembly in New York in September might just get derailed.

However, crocodile tears are not enough. Pakistan beheaded two of our soldiers in Krishnaghati area of Poonch sector on January 08 and a fidayeen attack took place on a CRPF camp at Bemina in Srinagar on March 14, killing many of our brave jawans. Plus, there have been more than 50 cases of ceasefire violations by Pakistan this year, making a mockery of the agreement that the two nations signed in 2003. And if one goes back in history, then there is a long list – 26/11, Parliament attack, Mumbai blasts and so on and so forth. It seems nothing less than preposterous when Pakistan says that the two sides must talk without bringing up the trial of 26/11, which is dragging its feet in their courts. India needs to act tough - enough of soft-peddling as far as India’s diplomacy is concerned.

And talking of diplomacy, it can only be termed as shameful as to what ensued after five of our soldiers died. Defence Minister AK Antony, virtually giving a clean chit to Pakistan said that terrorist in Army uniforms had killed our men - this when a defence release said that Pakistan Army was responsible for the deaths of our soldiers. Predictably, the Opposition was up in arms and Antony was forced to do a U-turn and he later on in Parliament said that indeed the Pakistani Army was the real culprit.

If Antony was not sure of the facts, as he admitted later, then he should have waited for a brief from the Indian Army Chief and then made a statement. It is a well known fact that our PM is in favour of talks with Pakistan. Infact, he had attracted heavy criticism when he signed the Sharm-el-Sheikh joint statement with Pakistan in 2009, delinking the composite dialogue process from terrorism and the mention of Balochistan. It was considered a blunder then. But Manmohan Singh has a chance to redeem himself now. He must send a stern message to Pakistan, especially given the sentiments at home, that talks and bloodshed cannot go along side by side. Pakistan, for better relations between the two countries, has to give us enough proof that it means business.

Post Script: After the beheading of our soldiers in January this year, Manmohan Singh had said that ‘it could not be business as usual with Pakistan’ – now with another set of killings, the PM must assure one billion plus population of this country that he means what he says. Manmohan Singh also needs to answer as to why he hasn’t spoken on the martyrdom of our soldiers till now – as the leader of the nation was he not supposed to send a message to the people of this country that he cares? And he also needs to take a cue from US President Barack Obama who cancelled his planned talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over Edward Snowden issue.