THE beheading of two soldiers, one from the army and the other from the Border Security Force, within the Line of Control in the Poonch sector, is a brutal provocation. Whether the killing and mutilation of the two soldiers was done by the Pakistani army, or by extremists who crossed over with their assistance, it is a barbaric act which goes against all military norms and the Geneva Convention.
There has to be a measured response from the Indian army. For this, there has to be a proper assessment of the situation which has developed on the border and within the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The violations of ceasefire on the Line of Control grew in 2015 and continued at a high level in 2016 and since then. This reflected the break down in the dialogue between the two countries soon after the Modi government took office.
Over the past few months, the situation has further deteriorated as far as the relations between the two countries are concerned. The military in Pakistan is calling the shots on matters regarding India. They have been able to get the upper hand facilitated by the confrontationist stance adopted by the Modi government. The death sentence awarded to Kulbhushan Jadav by a Pakistani military court has further aggravated tensions.
The Modi government conducted surgical strikes in September last year as a response to the extremist attack on the Uri army base. However, there has been no let up in the number of incidents of violation across the Line of Control and Pakistan’s efforts to support infiltration and exploit the situation which has developed in the Kashmir valley.
Kashmir has been in turmoil ever since the killing of Burhan Wani in July last year. The situation has been worsened by the hardline stance of the Modi government which seeks to suppress all protests with brute force. With the mass of the people – men, women and children – in revolt against the Indian State, the space for political activities and dialogue has been squeezed out.
The provocative action in the Poonch sector from the Pakistani side must be seen in the context of the steadily deteriorating situation in the Kashmir valley and the determination of the Pakistani military establishment to utilise it to the fullest.
Amidst calls for a tit for tat policy and the demand to get “ten heads for one of ours”, the actual fact about the Modi government’s strategic failure in dealing with Pakistan and in politically tackling the Kashmir problem, is sought to be obscured.
Rousing calls to once and for all settle accounts with Pakistan through military means is no substitute for a coherent strategy to resolve the Indo-Pakistan conflict. For a start, the Modi government would do well to immediately begin a political dialogue with all sections of political opinion in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Without regaining some degree of trust of the Kashmiri people, it will not be possible to counter and nullify any hostile measures from the Pakistani side.
The Modi government has also to recognise that there is no other way than to explore ways to resume the dialogue with Pakistan while remaining firm about countering terrorist infiltration from across the border. The Modi government should realise that neither internationally nor at the regional level will India find much support for pursuing a line of confrontation with Pakistan even if the fight against terrorism is made the centre piece of this approach.
(May 3, 2017)