There have been more than 80 ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops along the Line of Control this year from January 01 till now. The ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan have cast a shadow on the bilateral ceasefire that came into force between the two sides in November 2003.
In an exclusive interview with Kamna Arora of Zee Media Group, Lisa Curtis, an expert on India and Pakistan, discusses the ties between New Delhi and Islamabad in the wake of the tensions along LoC, and Pakistan`s intention behind ceasefire violations.
Lisa Curtis is a Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation in the United States of America.
Kamna: What do you think is the reason behind a sudden increase in ceasefire violations by the Pakistani military along LoC?
Lisa: There have been LoC ceasefire violations by both the Indian and Pakistani militaries over the last two weeks. Each side has its own complaints about the other’s violations, so it is difficult to identify the original catalyst for this most recent cycle of cross-border violations. That said, given Pakistan’s history of deliberately violating the LoC (i.e. Kargil incursion in 1999) and its failure to crackdown on terrorist groups that infiltrate across the LoC, the onus is on Pakistan to demonstrate that it is acting with restraint. Pakistan has a history of provoking violence in Kashmir and along the LoC in order to try to bring international involvement in the Indo-Pakistani dispute over Kashmir.
Kamna: When Nawaz Sharif became the Pakistani Prime Minister, he declared that he wanted to maintain friendly relations with India. Do you think Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies are pushing the Pakistani PM to halt his efforts, proving that it is they who decide the country’s `India strategy`?
Lisa: Given that cross-border violence followed closely on the heels of an attempted attack on the Indian consulate in Jalalabad, it is possible that there is a deliberate effort from within the Pakistani military establishment to scuttle any peace talks before they get off the ground. After all, the Pakistani Army leadership discouraged former Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari from moving ahead with his vision for establishing peace with India in 2008, shortly after he came to power. It stands to reason that the Army might again try to discourage PM Sharif from going down a similar path.
Kamna: Who do you think were behind the killings of Indian soldiers? Were they regular soldiers of the Pakistani Army; a group comprising only terrorists; or a combined border action team (BAT) comprising of a mix of terrorists and regular soldiers?
Lisa: It is hard to imagine that a group of militants acting on its own would attack five Indian soldiers. It seems more likely that Pakistani regular soldiers were involved. It is possible that Pakistani regular soldiers joined with militants for the attack. The Pakistani military works closely with militant groups fighting in Kashmir and sometimes the lines between the two are blurred. During the Kargil border war in 1999, for example, Pakistan tried to portray the original intruders that occupied the heights in Kargil as militants when really they were Pakistani regular soldiers disguised as militants.
Kamna: What could be the impact of repeated ceasefire violations on the relations between India and Pakistan?
Lisa: If the 2003 ceasefire is not revived soon, it will be a serious setback to Indo-Pakistan relations. There already is concern that with the US drawdown in Afghanistan, there will no longer be a buffer between India and Pakistan in Afghanistan and Indo-Pakistani relations will begin to experience the same kind of volatility they did pre-9/11. Although the situation could be even worse since there are more jihadists in the region and they may be emboldened by the US withdrawal.
Kamna: Do you think that there is an utter lack of options at the diplomatic level on how India should deal with Pakistan?
Lisa: India should leave the door open for talks with Pakistan’s civilian leadership. If, in fact, the Pakistani military is trying to flex its muscles to show the Sharif government who is the boss when it comes to Indo-Pakistani relations, then India breaking off talks with the civilian leadership would only play into the Pakistani Army’s strategy. It is better for India to try to keep lines of communication open with Pakistani leaders interested in pursuing peace. It is also important for India to approach any talks with Pakistan with a clear agenda for moving dialogue forward. India`s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should use the opportunity of the UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) to meet with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif and lay out a specific roadmap for returning to peaceful dialogue. This would demonstrate that India is sincere in its desire for peaceful relations and put the onus on Pakistan to respond favorably.