Adjutant General(Retd.) & GCTC Executive Board Member
The Ceasefire Agreement is historic – dating to 2003, announced as it was initially unilaterally by Pakistan, and later on the Indian suggestion expanded to include Siachen Glacier. As one recollects the years prior to the ceasefire, near-continuous firing across the LOC was a ritual, honed to an art in attempting to push terrorists across. The firing at times was so ferocious and incessant that many veterans recall it as a war-zone personified. The troops deployed along the LOC, then had well fathomed the persistent fire and adjusted to it. The civilian activities in proximity were close to cipher, also thanks to the mining of the border areas during Op Parkaram. The years consequently have witnessed significant changes. The border fence was a paradigmatic transition to a new posture of countering infiltration, ceasefire forced the Army’s hand to demine steadily and hand over areas to the civil population, the villages were permitted to relocate to traditional areas even between the fence and the LOC/international border (IB) and tilling took over every inch of territory up to the zero-line. It is not that the sporadic firing did not take place in the interregnum, that terrorists continued infiltration (though much reduced and checked) and action by border action teams from across did take place. Just that these were not deterrent enough to roll-back the normal civilian activity in the proximity to the LOC/IB, including running of schools, or grazing of cattle and even controlled trade from across Kaman and Chakandabagh. As time passed, the supremely live LOC that the units faced in the nineties became a fading memory – except in some persistent areas like Krishna Ghatti!
The Ceasefire Agreement on the Line of Control (LOC) between India and Pakistan is now dead. The death has not come about in a day or a few weeks – it was seen coming over the last couple of years. Samba, Dinanagar, Kathua, Uri, Pathankot, Nagrota, and now Sanjuwanare all pointers towards what was to follow. The IB sector led the way, with exchange of fire between the Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers. Statistically 152 incidents in 2015, 228 in 2016, and the four-fold rise to 860 in 2017 are symptomatic of the incorrigibility of the Pakistan Army. The Pakistan Army –clichés apart –lives on pathological hatred towards India having solidified anti-Indianism as a national identity issue, and controls the Pakistani Nation in toto – letting political dispensations exist, as afacade. An active LOC/IB allows the Pakistani Army to ensure continual attention towards J&K, when the terrorist activity and terrorist initiated actions are on the wane. The death of the ceasefire is more so along the LOC/IB South of Pir Panjal, evidence of which comes in from use of indirect firing weapons, the thousands of civilians vacating their proximate villages, schools closed by the District Administrations, cessation to normal life and damage to civilian houses, peoples and livestock.
Can the situation revert back to normal – normal being adherence to ceasefire, as tenuous as it was? Indeed, it is feasible, with political sagacity and decisions at that level. However, the trigger-happiness of the Pakistan Army, and its nature in the national scheme, will not allow for a reliable adherence and return to normalcy of the civilian life. The seriousness of own casualties recently at Bhimber Gali effect the national psyche. The print and audio-visual (with its decibels) debated ad-lib escalation on the LoC, only to find contrary opinions prescribing patience, with no firm stated direction.
Close on the heels of the heightened tensions on the LoC has come the terrorist attack on Army Military Camp at Sanjuwan, Jammu. The regularity of the attacks on military camps by suicidal squads trained, equipped, indoctrinated and unleashed, causes national consternation. The drawing-room and on the street conversations – which are no measure of national policy, exhort stronger and firmer action.
What next? The political parleys may be continuing with Pakistan behind curtains at a slow pace. The events at Bhimber Gali and Sanjuwan will generate heat for a finite time, and then will be pushed to statistics, till the next ones happen at different areas. Status of existing responses have had limited heed, as the Pakistan Army allows a short hiatus, before orchestrating the next attack. A bouquet of response options do exist, many are however relegated on the altar of escalation. It is but no war-mongering to plan a more forceful response, one that is more significant to be noticed. Immediate response must be to ESCALATE to DE-ESCALATE, with clear signal, that the next event would upscale the same, and that the other side must desist from further escalation – as the subsequence will be their responsibility. Next level of military targeting against known military bases/ depth areas of the adversary utilizing focused precision, long range indirect fire, and the like, in a concerted manner, must get noticed. At each time the response must be different, confusing, unconventional and perplexing. As a strategy it should be outside the experience of Pakistan Army on the LoC.
To take a cue, there is a need to make military signaling and psychological addressal of events a systemic. We must address the border population of Pakistan in POK and Punjab, electronically, to impress upon their uniformed forces to desist from fanning terror in J&K and on LoC, as the response may be many levels higher. The international opinion should also be intimated that Indian uniformed forces are not war-mongers, and wish for peace – however, henceforth the answer to major event as have happened recently, will not be routine. Indeed, the likelihood of escalation and fool-hardiness may exist. However, the doctrine of ESCALATE to DE-ESCALATE would aim at a strong immediate message, though the attempt thereinafter would be to downscale. The cost of inciting terror in India, for Pakistan must be heightened, to hurt, forcing their population and polity to take the matter in their hands and push the Pakistan military and their jehadi factories to put clamps.