The long ceasefire line in J&K came into existence on cessation of hostilities when Pakistan had attacked Kashmir soon after Independence. They had almost reached Srinagar before being pushed back from nearly two thirds of the J&K State. Troops of the opposing sides occupied a ‘as is where is’ ground position at the time of ceasefire. Since then opposing Armies have been in almost an eyeball-to-eyeball contact across the CFL.
…this is not the first time the Pak Army has engaged itself in such a dastardly act that is not only in violation of the Geneva Convention but also against all tenets of humanity.
There have been frequent violations of the ceasefire. Most of these have been in the form of firing across the border. Pakistan Army resorts to unprovoked firing to cover the passage of infiltrators into India. There have also been cases where the Pakistani troops have physically crossed the line and carried out offensive actions. Ambushing an Indian Army patrol on 8 Jan 2013 and killing of two soldiers some 500 meters inside India was the most recent violation. What made this action more gruesome is the brutal beheading of one of the soldiers.
Of course this is not the first time the Pak Army has engaged itself in such a dastardly act that is not only in violation of the Geneva Convention but also against all tenets of humanity. They did it in the 1971 war as well as during Kargil operations where they mutilated the bodies of Capt Saurav Kalia and his men. This seems in the DNA of Pak Army. The fact that this time there was an additional motivation to collect a booty of five lac rupees, makes the crime even more despicable.
Pakistan of course denies all such acts. Rahman Malik the Pakistan Interior Minister made the most incredulous statement during his visit to India in December 2012 by stating that mutilation to Capt Kalia’s body could have been caused by weather. Even in the recent incident the Pakistan foreign Minister Ms Hina Rabani Khar has denied and has even asked for enquiry by an independent agency. What a crude attempt to internationalise the Kashmir issue? Seeing their denial of an incident that is blindingly clear to all, one cannot help recall an anecdote where two inebriated villagers argued whether a goat has four legs or three. When the bet was about to be settled, a sober onlooker quietly warned the three-leg backer that he would lose. His immediate retort was, “I can lose only if I agree.”
We have in the past projected ourselves as an over tolerant, if not a soft State. If we do not act this time we will also project ourselves as unconcerned with the life and safety of our citizens.
The first question that arises is why does Pak Army resort to such unsoldierly and barbaric acts? Pak Army has tasted political power at regular intervals. Even when not directly ruling the country, they have been the puppeteers of the civil government. Power like pelf becomes an addiction. Pak Army has created a myth of indispensability in their country. They will do everything to maintain that position. Any hint of improvement in Indo-Pak relations tends to threaten that public perception and becomes unacceptable to the Pak Army. It is possible, in fact likely, that the act of mutilation of the body of our soldier did not have the endorsement of the civil government. The Army would have acted independently, which should come as no surprise in Pakistan. But the overall responsibility must rest with the civilian government who must be held accountable.
What does India do? The first action of issuing a strong diplomatic protest was a mature and the right step. Pakistan must admit that their Army has committed the crime. Secondly, they must apologise to India for this act of commission. However, seeing their Foreign Minister’s follow-up public statements this appears a wishful thinking. They are determined not to accept any responsibility. Indian government has now to decide how it wishes to follow through on the strong ‘threat’. We have in the past projected ourselves as an over tolerant, if not a soft State. If we do not act this time we will also project ourselves as unconcerned with the life and safety of our citizens. Our responses in the past have invariably been of ‘we will not accept a recurrence’ kind. Pakistan cannot be faulted in concluding that our bark has no bite. Time has come for us to act tough, and without waiting. Let our Army respond to the specific incident in the manner and at a time and place that suits them; it does not have to be war. Immediately draw down our diplomatic presence in Islamabad and ask Pakistan to do the same in Delhi. Stop all cross border movement of trains and buses. Cancel all trade, sporting and cultural exchanges. Simultaneously gather international support against Pakistan for its highly provocative and cowardly act. In the long run send a clear signal to Pakistan that their economy is largely dependent on agriculture and their irrigation system is based on water flowing out of Indian territory. So far we have meticulously honoured the Indus Water Treaty. But we should not be obliged to, since there is no reciprocity of agreements and neighbourly niceties.
Acting responsibly is a sign of our maturity. However, doing so against a rogue neighbour repeatedly violating civilised norms is foolishness.