Ceasefire violations and the Kashmir issue: Pakistan's most workable survival trick?
Over the last few weeks debates have been going on as to why Pakistan has suddenly stepped up firing across the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB). It is even more baffling that such ceasefire violations have intensified after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an effort to improve relations with the estranged neighbour, invited Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony.
Surprisingly, the situation has escalated in the last three months. From sporadic violations to intensified daily shelling, Pakistani troops have not even hesitated to attack civilians, that too not only in the cover of night but in broad daylight. It seems that Pakistan is desperate to wage an undeclared war against India.
Recently, after Nawaz Sharif visited India, everyone had hoped that it would be the starting point of a new chapter in Indo-Pak relations. But soon the situation returned to square one. Nawaz, just after returning from India, faced severe opposition in his own country which almost took a toll on his political career. Tehrik-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan and Pakistani Canadian cleric Tahir-ul-Quadri-led anti-government demonstrations rocked the troubled South Asian nation. Finding no other way to divert people’s attention from this movement and also from other internal disputes, Nawaz once again raked up the Kashmir issue.
If we look back historically at the timings of ceasefire violations by Pakistan, it would be rational to sum up that whenever there has been an internal distress in this South Asian nation, the administrators have tried to divert attention by increasing tensions with India. Raking up the Kashmir issue is the best way to intensify hostilities with India, and Pak politicians probably believe this safeguards them from their in-house strife.
The Himalayan region of Kashmir has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan ever since both countries became independent in 1947. In the past, Pakistan has waged three wars against India in 1947, 1965, and in 1971. The fourth one almost happened in 1999, when Pak regulars and militants infiltrated into India in Kargil-Drass sector. However, Pakistan suffered a crushing blow in all these wars. The worst was in 1971 when Bangladesh was liberated and almost 93,000 Pakistan troops surrendered before the Indian Army.
Then, post Simla Agreement of 1972, India decided to release all Prisoners of War (PoW) and captured territories. It was also decided that the ceasefire line in J&K will be known as the LoC and all discord between both the nations would be resolved bilaterally. All the decisions were taken with a hope of peace in future between the hostile countries.
But everything came to naught because Pakistan never bothered to follow the underlying principles of the Simla Agreement and has repeatedly violated the ceasefire along the LoC. When attempts to win wars with India were thwarted, Pakistan engaged in proxy wars. Over the years, constant efforts have been made to promote insurgency in J&K.
On the contrary, Indian politicians, especially former prime ministers IK Gujral and Atal Behari Vajpayee, tried to build healthy relations with Pakistan. Vajpayee even took the historic bus ride to Lahore and also participated in a flag hoisting ceremony on Pakistan soil. In February 1999, despite the hostile atmosphere, both countries signed the Lahore Declaration to further a peaceful and bilateral solution to the Kashmiri issue. But his gesture and the Declaration went in vain, as Pakistan, under then Army chief General Pervez Musharraf, forced the Kargil conflict. However, Pakistan lost the battle and India re-gained Kargil heights.
But this was not the end. The high-profile 2001 Indian Parliament attack and the 2008 Mumbai attacks caused Indo-Pak relations to further deteriorate. Even after all this, during the UPA regime, attempts were made to mend relations with Pakistan but nothing fruitful happened.
Since last year, there have been ceasefire violations sparingly along the LoC. In one brutal incident, Pakistan troops even crossed the LoC and beheaded two Indian jawans - Lance Naik Hemraj and Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh in the month of January this year. Later in the year, especially after PM Narendra Modi took over the reins of the government, ceasefire violations have increased manifold. But, unlike the UPA government, the Modi government has adopted a tough and tit-for-tat stance.
But the question is, why has Pakistan intensified ceasefire violations at a time when India has tried to stretch its hand of friendship? May be it is afraid to lose a hot political topic or is trying to put a veil on its internal problem by diverting attention towards the Kashmir issue.
Another angle of the story is the suspicion that Pakistani troops have been firing to provide cover to militants or so-called ‘jihadis’ who have been trying to infiltrate into India before the arrival of winter.
Amid tensions at the LoC and IB, the Pakistan PM did not shy away from raising the Kashmir issue before the international community. In his address at the United Nations General Assembly, Sharif upped the ante and criticised India for cancelling high-level bilateral talks (India had called off foreign secretary-level talks in August because of Pakistani envoy's meeting with Kashmiri separatists ahead of the dialogue. To counter Sharif, PM Modi reiterated India’s bid to offer help to the flood-ravaged people of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and noted bilateral issues cannot be resolved at the UN.)
Recently, Sharif even wrote to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, seeking intervention in the Kashmir issue. But the UN clearly rejected Pakistan’s desire and asked both the countries to sort out the issue bilaterally. However, despite the UN’s indifference, Pakistan continues with its diplomatic offensive.
It looks as if Sharif has suddenly realised that Kashmir is the answer to his political problems whereas peace with its ‘neighbour’ may dethrone him. Most likely, the political fraternity of Pakistan thinks that the key to the longevity of their career is to keep the ‘K-issue’ alive and kicking at any cost.
Even the country’s ‘Gen-Next’ politician and Pakistan People’s Party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari thinks the same way. He had recently said that his party would take back entire Kashmir from India if it comes to power. The 26-year old scion of the Bhutto family is all set to contest the 2018 General Elections. So, the point is, whenever there is a talk of ‘politics’ or ‘power’ in Pakistan, politicians of that country think that J&K is their number one selling point. It seems no politician in Pakistan is bothered about the country's economy, trade deficit, infrastructure, development, education and rapidly growing terrorism. Unlike Pakistan, India does not try to encroach upon others' territory and would rather be engaged in more productive activities related with economy and development. However, when others provoke without reason and constantly cross the line, the Indian Establishment and the Army have no choice but to give a befitting reply.