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SEPTEMBER-2012
COVER STORY
In Peace and War
The Line of Control has dynamics of its own
How long will the ceasefire on the Line of Control (LC), which came into effect on 26 November, 2003 hold, and what are its implications either way is a question which surprisingly few ask in Jammu and Kashmir, and most pretend is irrelevant. Part of the reason is that it has held too long through thick and thin, especially in the aftermath of the devastating 2005 earthquake and the 26 November, 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai that it is being taken for granted.

When FORCE team had visited the Kashmir valley and the forward areas within days of the 2005 earthquake, it was clear that on the LC, the Pakistani side had suffered much more than India. Seen through high powered binoculars, most Pakistani defences lay flattened, suggesting enormous casualties. Reports from Pakistan were replete with militants (terrorists that ISI sends across the LC into India) providing succour to what was left of the dazed Pakistan Occupied Kashmir border population. The Pakistan Army took as much as two weeks to get its act together, where its focus was to re-build its LC defences. In comparison, the Indian situation was not so desperate. Had India wanted to benefit from the natural calamity, it had the possibility of making quick tactical adjustments on the LC to make traditional infiltration routes harder to negotiate. The difference in activities on both sides in the first few weeks after the devastation was stark. In India, unlike POK, the focus of the army and the air force was to provide for the locals. Military units adopted villages and with financial help from the state administration and civil society set about building infrastructure to help bring normalcy.
After the November 26 terrorist attacks, when it was clear that the Pakistan Army (ISI) was behind it, New Delhi debated punitive counter-strikes, exactly five years after the LC ceasefire had come into being. The army leadership suggested raids into POK across the LC amongst the array of punitive actions to the government. The Army’s Northern Command responsible for the Jammu and Kashmir theatre ordered troops on high alert. The Border Security Force (BSF) guarding the LC in many sectors was replaced by regular army, and troops’ leave was cancelled though recall from leave was not made as this would have alerted the enemy of impending action. Even as temperatures rose on both sides with each accusing the other of war drumming, the LC ceasefire remained intact. This is not to say that ceasefire violations have stopped completely. For example, 2008 witnessed maximum ceasefire violations as compared to previous years by Pakistan, all of which interestingly were south of the Pir Panjal range (in 16 corps area of responsibility) to facilitate infiltration. According to army officers, the Pakistan Army has maintained the sanctity of ceasefire in the Valley, but from time to time resorted to firings in the Jammu region. This probably provides the clue why the 2003 ceasefire continues to hold.

The 2003 ceasefire, which was General Musharraf’s initiative and was readily accepted by India, was the beginning of the sought bilateral Kashmir resolution. Between 2004 and 2007, both sides made progress on the diplomatic (composite dialogue) and backchannel fronts; the confidence building and conflict resolution issues. During his visit to India on pretext of witnessing the India-Pakistan cricket match, Musharraf met-up with Indian media editors to explain his four-point formula for Kashmir resolution. He also signed the 18 April, 2005 joint statement which stated that the peace process was ‘irreversible.’ Subsequent to this, two crossing points for people’s movement at Uri and Tithwal between the two Kashmirs were agreed upon, and so was bilateral trade between Uri and Muzaffarabad. Besides the Separatist leadership, the state mainline political leaders, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti travelled to Pakistan. Omar met with Musharraf and publicly found merit in his ideas on Kashmir resolution. One man in Pakistan who was completely onboard Musharraf’s game-plan was his director general, ISI, Lt General Ashfaq Kayani, the present army chief. He was made the ISI chief starting October 2004 with the unambiguous brief that terrorism should shift from J&K to mainland India, which he executed brilliantly. With the bilateral peace process underway for the Kashmir resolution, it was natural that infiltration across the LC and violence within the Valley should remain low.

Whether by default or design, the Indian Army has devoted enough time and energy since the ceasefire for betterment of the border population. During the recent visit, FORCE met with villagers at Handwara and Tithwal, where the clear verdict was that their quality of life had improved substantially (see cover spread). The Pakistan rangers can see this for themselves. Given such a situation, it would be detrimental for the Pakistan Army to break the ceasefire in Kashmir; the border population, unlike the Over Ground Workers (OGWs) in towns and cities, will hold it against Pakistan. Moreover, whichever side breaks the ceasefire will be viewed unfavourably by the people of Kashmir. The continuing ceasefire also indicates that Kayani has not abandoned his predecessor’s Kashmir resolution roadmap. For this reason, the LC ceasefire (barring violations in Jammu division) will continue to hold until India decides to retaliate in what would be an all out conventional war in response to Pakistan’s continued terrorism on mainland India. Pakistan in 2011 gains little by a formal abandonment of LC ceasefire.
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