Ceasefire violations need to be stopped before they become dangerous


The fresh spurt in hostilities on the Line of Control in Mendhar and Akhnoor sectors is worrisome, especially if allowed to linger on, defeating the purpose of the goodwill generated by the bonhomie witnessed during Nawaz Sharief’s recent visit to New Delhi to attend the swearing-in of prime minister Narendra Modi. Two months after that happened, the new government led by BJP has yet to spell out its policy vis-a-vis its neighbours, particularly Pakistan and Nawaz Sharief and his government, too, have slipped into silence. There has as yet been no move to renew the peace process, least of all toconsolidate the gains of the earlier peace process and ensure among other things that there are no ceasefire violations. Unfortunately, the fresh bout of tensions sparked off on the day the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi visited Jammu and Kashmir less than a month ago. They have not only resulted in condemnable killings and loss of life on the borders, they have also triggered fears of a continuum of vicious cycle of violence that not only takes a toll of soldiers manning the borders but also the civilians caught on the two sides of this troubled zone. Six Indian army and BSF personnel have already been killed on the borders in less than 2 months and dozens including civilians are injured. The repeated violations not only retard the peace process, they also spread scare and insecurity.

A history of skirmishes at the borders has revealed that such tensions have never been reduced through eyeball to eyeball confrontation, retaliation and military solutions. They can be ebbed only through conciliation and dialogue, that may not necessarily come from the top level but can be started from the level of military commanders, though a composite dialogue between the Indian and the Pakistani state at the highest levels can indeed facilitate such a mechanism where occasional bouts of hostility and skirmishes can be sorted out by both sides at the local level, without getting sucked in by the temptation of military retaliation. This, even as there are serious apprehensions on this side of Pakistan army trying to back infiltrators and militants or the fears lurking in the Pakistani establishment about the repercussions of a saffron party’s take-over in New Delhi. 

The only way forward is through initiating immediate talks on the issue and sorting out the mess that has begun to play havoc with lives of both security personnel and ordinary civilians living along the borders, besides re-creating a sense of panic and fear psychosis that had begun to wane ever since the ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan was put into place. The situation is fast assuming serious proportions with the frequency of cross-firing increasing. It is time to begin serious negotiations to ensure that such hostilities on the borders do not take place and the sanctity of the agreement on ceasefire is maintained so that it can aid a more fruitful peace process between the two countries and also aid the process of the much needed resolution of Kashmir issue. Ceasefire on the borders is crucial for a healthy peace process, though on its own, it has no potential for resolving the ticklish and long pending issues between Islamabad and New Delhi. It can only be a good catalyst and therefore there is need to strengthen it, rather than letting complacency and hawkishness to take over and allowing the ceasefire to go haywire and out of control. For that, the political leadership both in New Delhi and Islamabad need to strengthen their controls over their respective official agencies and networking, without succumbing to temptations of petty politicking or getting cowed down by extreme right wing opinion. Any bits of hawkishness and hostility, in rhetoric or on the ground at the borders, need a more statesmanlike and pragmatic response, not one conditioned by complacency, rigidity or harshness.