Pakistan and India are back to their mutual blame-game – accusing each other of “unprovoked firing” across the 190km working boundary separating Jammu in India from Sialkot and other Pakistan towns. But the entire issue is worth taking a dig at in the historical perspective to decipher the mindset that is working behind this brinkmanship. For this, Reuters news agency and India Today offer some critical reading.
Both sides have their own versions. During his recent interaction with the Pakistani and foreign media in the Sialkot sector, the commander of the border security forces Major-General Tahir Javed Khan rejected the Indian accusations of cross-border infiltration from the Pakistani side and also wondered about the motives.
“The type of infrastructure which you have (on the Indian side) in terms of barbed wire, the gate control with them, fully lit at night with poles at 100 meters distance each, four search lights on each pole and then the bunkers spaced 75 meters to 100 meters all along the working boundary. Now, when firing is taking place everyone is alert, the lights are lit. How would that be possible that during this period, intense firing and once everyone is alert, some infiltration can take place?” Voice of American quoted Khan as saying.
[quote]For several weeks, Indian BSF officers spurned telephone contact[/quote]
He also complained that for several weeks, the Indian BSF top tier officers spurned telephonic contact, either not taking phone calls via the hotline or saying the relevant officers were not available.
“Reasons best known to them (India) but they are becoming more aggressive with each passing day. The number of [cease-fire] violations, the number of rounds they have fired and the number of [Pakistani] posts and villages they have engaged that is increasing with each passing day. And the number of rounds which they have fired in five days, probably this much volume was not fired even during the actual wars between India and Pakistan,” said Khan.
Across the border, military officers and officials in New Delhi say the violence that has killed nearly 20 civilians escalated because of a more assertive Indian posture under the new government of nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Reuters, October 12, 2014).
“The message we have been given from the prime minister’s office is very clear and precise. It has instructed us to ensure that Pakistan suffers deep and heavy losses,” the Reuters story out of New Delhi, quoted a senior Indian Home Ministry official as saying.
A couple of days earlier on October 9, Modi told a political rally – when 1,000 Indian mortars rained across into Pakistan – that “it is the enemy that is screaming,” according to the global news agency.
Officials say India’s new policy is being orchestrated by Ajit Doval, a decorated former intelligence official renowned for his role in dangerous counter-insurgency missions. He has long advocated tough action against Pakistan-based militant groups, Reuters said.
“In conversations with Reuters as head of a right-wing think tank in New Delhi before he joined the new government, Doval said India must lay down core security policies, one of which was ‘zero tolerance’ for acts of violence.”
In August, after days of cross-border firing between India and Pakistan, Doval attended a meeting at the Home Ministry along with the head of the para-military Border Security Force (BSF) and a decision was taken to give a free hand to the ground commanders in Jammu, a top security official in the region told Reuters.
The aggressive tone and tenor makes perfect sense if we look at the combination that currently leads India’s civilian security apparatus; a) the nationalistic BJP with an unprecedented mandate in national elections, and b) Ajit Doval, the national security advisor known for his extremely hawkish views on Pakistan.
Doval, a former IB director, has also been part of India Today’s the Board of Experts on Security and Terror (BEST), consisting of a dozen retired Indian military, intelligence and civilian officials – available on the India Today website – that was set up in early 2009 to discuss growing security threats to India —from China and Pakistan.
Some of the recommendations made by the 2009 panel were:
“There are lessons that India should learn from the 1971 conflict that was a result of careful strategy and planning. What the current situation calls for is a similar massive effort with a clear end goal in sight. If the 1971 objective was to dismember Pakistan, then the 2009 game plan should be to neutralize Pakistan so that it can no longer pose a threat to India,” the document says.
“We have our leverage in Balochistan and in some other parts of Pakistan. What we really need to convey to Pakistan is that if they commit a blatant anti-India act on the ground, a military act or otherwise, it will have to bear the repercussions,” said Ved Marwah, former governor of Jharkhand.
“Covert and over actions need to be essential ingredients of India’s policy. India must exploit fault lines within Pakistan,” said G Parthasarthi, a former high commissioner to Pakistan.
Let us also recall that in 2013, former Indian army chief General VK Singh found himself in thick soup when the Indian media reported that, using funds allocated for Kashmir operations, Singh had created a Technical Services Division (TSD) for covert operations in Pakistan – going after the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai terrorist attacks and Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed. A Hindustan Times report chronicled this venture, and quoted a former TSD officer as saying: “Our main task was to combat the rising trend of state-sponsored terrorism by the ISI, and we had developed contacts across the Line of Control in a bid to infiltrate Hafiz Saeed’s inner circle.”
During the BEST discussions Ajit Doval suggested India should shatter “the bogey of threat (to Pakistan) from our army” which he said the Pakistani Army has created.
“We want to have a dialogue over Kashmir and people in Pakistan should not worry about anything that the Indian Army will do. We secured Bangladesh and handed it over to them to run their own country. Let the people of Pakistan believe that there is no threat from the Indian Army.”
Although it was an altogether private media panel discussion, yet it seems that some of the recommendations Doval and other experts made in 2009 have apparently been in practice, and the latest events possibly also offer a reflection of that. Following his appointment as the national security advisor, Doval got a golden chance to translate some of the recommendations.
Doval wants India to embed its dealings with Pakistan in a February 22, 1994 resolution both houses of the Indian Parliament unanimously adopted, emphasizing that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India, and that “Pakistan must vacate parts of the State under its occupation.”
The resolution, following a surge in cross-border militant activities, declared that”
(a) The State of Jammu & Kashmir has been, is and shall be an integral part of India and any attempts to separate it from the rest of the country will be resisted by all necessary means;
(b) India has the will and capacity to firmly counter all designs against its unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity;
and demanded that –
(c) Pakistan must vacate the areas of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, which they have occupied through aggression; and resolves that –
(d) all attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of India will be met resolutely.
In a speech, probably delivered during Manmohan Singh government, Ajit Doval made yet another reference to the February 1994 resolution and advocated that the only way to settle Kashmir is to wrest the rest of Kashmir from Pakistan.
All this points to a change of strategy in New Delhi.
Imtiaz Gul is the Executive Director at Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad