Fireworks for Obama? He must play a third party role to ensure peace

PUNCHLINE

The war of nerves has become cardinal guideline for relations between India and Pakistan. It has not paid in the Past. It is not going to pay now. It is not also going to pay in future also.  Immediately, after their birth as independent dominions the two countries got embroiled in the dispute over future of the Jammu and Kashmir.  Immediately after landing of Indian troops at 9 A.M on October 27, 1947 at Srinagar, fight between India Pakistan started in the State- it continued for twenty months.  The actual fighting came to an end after military representatives of India and Pakistan under auspices of the Truce Sub-Committee of United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan signed on 29 July 1949 the Cease-Fire Line Agreement. 

 

This agreement had come into existence for cessation of hostilities for creating a congenial and peaceful atmosphere for implementation of August 1948 and January 1949 resolution of the UNCIP. First Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru had seen these resolutions as sacrosanct as scriptures for India and had raised voice in Indian Parliament and outside against attempts ‘to go back on these resolution and hence delay in the settlement.’ Time and again, in international fora and in the Parliament he reiterated his commitments. And in his address to Parliament on 28 March 1951 during debate on Foreign Affairs, he said, “The substance of the resolution of 1948 and 1949 and direction contained therein we considered vital and still do; we will not compromise to appease Pakistan or her sympathizers.” Had these resolutions that India had seen addressed all its concerns been implemented, Kashmir Dispute would have been resolved, the CFL would have disappeared,   and the borders between the two countries would have been settled for all times to come. 

The CFL instead of ending hostilities, for past sixty five years, has been scene of violations of the ceasefire agreement on almost daily basis triggering skirmishes and even caused major conflicts. Thousands of innocents and men in uniform have been consumed by this bloody line. True, there have been bouts of peace along this line, the longest was after end of 2001 standoff and ceasefire agreement between two nations was signed in 2003. And this ceasefire survived almost ten years bringing respite to millions on both the sides of the LoC and it was only after announcement of the US drawdown from Afghanistan   that the skirmishes along the line dividing two parts of Kashmir once again started spoiling the relations between the two countries. Ostensibly, one of the important factors for collapsing of the 2003- ceasefire agreement authored by Vajpayee and Musharraf has been Islamabad and New Delhi vying for a larger strategic space in war torn Afghanistan after withdrawal of US troops.      

History testifies the two countries have been unfortunately using the tension along the LOC and ceasefire violations for gaining diplomatic mileage over each other. Now, when US President Obama is schedule to visit New Delhi for participating in the Republic Day tension along the LoC and the working boundary   got heightened on the New Year’s Eve. In view of wave of solidarity with Pakistan that swept across India after a school in Peshawar the mounting tension on the line dividing two parts of Kashmir smack of a contradiction of sorts.  Trading accusation against each other and offering contradictory accounts of the happenings that caused death of five soldiers.   The Pakistani version has been that two Rangers were “decoyed into a flag meeting with their Indian counterparts and then killed in a hail of gunfire.” On the second day of 2015, television channels splashed pictures of a boat in flames. Defence Ministry claimed that the vessel belonged to Pakistan and had four people on board. And on an intelligence tip off, the Coast Guards and helicopters intercepted it near maritime border with Pakistan and after one hours hot pursuit, the crew of the vessel blew itself up. Pakistan “categorically” denied it. It is hard to know veracity of the report from independent sources, unless some country comes with satellite imaging of the incident. One after another incident on the working boundary or in the sea on the first day of New Year and these sparks more such incidents and making relations between New Delhi and Islamabad is genuine worry that grips the peaceniks in the sub-continent. ‘A leading New Delhi newspaper on Saturday quoting MHA reported that Intelligence reports have indicated that at least eight groups of terror suspects have been attempting to infiltrate into Indian Territory along the International Border, under the cover of firing by Pakistan Rangers to carry out spectacular attacks ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit.’ 

The most alarming question in the public domain is that if these incidents are related to 26 October 2014 agreement between Obama and Modi that talked about “enhanced security partnership to address the threat of terrorism, including from Pakistan-based groups”. This announcement had spawned wild speculations in Pakistan about India with help of USA would be carrying out “surgical strikes” inside Pakistan. In October 2014 relations between Washington and Islamabad that had deteriorated over years had reached to   nadir. Have relations between the two capitals undergone a change after Pakistan started war against Taliban- “good or bad” begs an answer…  

 Till Obama arrives, the tension on the LOC or on the working boundary may increase. But, the real worry is if this tension does not graduate to a 2001 standoff situation, when India moved five lakh troops and Pakistan three lakh troops to the LOC. And months together the soldiers of two countries faced each other eyeball to eyeball- it was but for nudging by Bush as by   Clinton during Kargil war that a nuclear clash between two countries was prevented.   

Stephen Cohen has identified couple of reasons for deteriorating of relations between of the two countries  ‘primary one being their pathological nature: each side feels threatened and insecure, the rise of groups beyond control, including radical Islamic and Hindu movements and lack of Interest among outside powers, especially United States, in long term solution.’ 

Now when Obama is visiting India, like his predecessor in office he needs to play a third party role for mediating permanent peace between the two countries.