At daggers drawn

Pakistan will need astute diplomacy to counter India's aggressive posturing

At daggers drawn
India and Pakistan exchanged heavy shelling and gunfire across the Line of Control last week in the worst skirmishes of this kind in more than a decade, as two of their social activists won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize last Friday. According to a Foreign Ministry press release, 12 civilians were killed and 52 civilians and 9 military personnel have been injured on the Pakistani side so far.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz wrote a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon showing Pakistan’s concern over what he called the escalated and unprovoked firing by the Indian army and stressed for the need to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the resolutions of the UN Security Council.

From October 1 to October 10, 20 ceasefire violations along the LoC and 22 violations along the Working Boundary were reported. During the period from June to August, there were 99 ceasefire violations along the LoC and 32 along the Working Boundary. In 2014, 174 ceasefire violations along the LoC and 60 along the Working Boundary have been reported so far, the letter stated.

After the landslide victory of Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in the general elections, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif paid a two-day visit to India to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May. But relations between the two nuclear rivals are in tatters again after India called off diplomatic talks with Pakistan scheduled for August 25 because Pakistan’s ambassador to India Abdul Basit met with Kashmiri leaders, saying it undermined efforts to thaw relations between the two neighbors. In the past, Pakistan has held such meetings with the Kashmiri leadership, and India’s new hard line reflects Mr Modi’s aggressive posture towards Pakistan.

“The reason for which they called off the talks is very ridiculous. Pakistani High Commissioners, Foreign Ministers and Prime Ministers have met Kashmiri leaders (in the past),” Pakistan’s former ambassador to India Riaz Khokhar said in an interview.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence, two of them over Kashmir, and came close to a fourth one in Kargil. The two countries control parts of the Himalayan region but claim it in full. A ceasefire agreement, which had remained in place since 2003, was also violated in August 2013 when the two countries traded heavy gunfire and shelling along the LoC, causing thousands of people on both sides to flee to safer areas.

According to an October 13 statement issued by the Foreign Office, Mr Aziz briefed the ambassadors of the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council on Monday on the situation prevailing on the Line of Control and the Working Boundary.

“Ceasefire violations by India and the provocative statements by Indian leadership were not only a setback to peace efforts but also a distraction from Pakistan’s counter-terrorism commitments in the ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb,” the statement said.

On September 26, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif visited troops deployed along the Line of Control near the city of Jhelum, according to a statement by ISPR, “reiterated that any provocation along the Line of Control will be responded effectively.”

Pakistani experts say Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made good gestures after the Modi government took over, but hopes dashed when Indian foreign secretary addressed a press conference while Mr Sharif was still in Delhi. According to some former diplomats, that was a very undiplomatic gesture. They say Modi made himself very clear right from the beginning that he will follow a very aggressive policy towards Pakistan. One reason for that may be the upcoming elections in Kashmir.

“They want to take over the government in Kashmir after the election by installing Kashmir’s first Hindu chief minister,” Khokhar added.

[quote]India is trying to gain strategic space in Afghanistan [/quote]

Mr Sharif raised the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly session in September, and once again called for a plebiscite in line with resolutions of the United Nations. India is trying to gain strategic space in Afghanistan at a time when most of the foreign troops will pull out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

According to analysts, India wants to keep the pressure on the Pakistan Army and is not at all interested in any serious dialogue with Pakistan. Relations between Islamabad and New Delhi will remain tense in the near future, with India taking a very aggressive posture. Pakistan will have to combine astute diplomacy with utmost military preparedness to deal with the situation.