Escalating tension is not good for either country

    While there will be no open war between India and Pakistan in the normally understood sense, this does not prevent Pakistan from activating its tools of terror

    There has been an escalation of tension between India and Pakistan in the recent few days. The Line of Control (LoC) has witnessed serious exchange of fire at the border for nearly a fortnight. Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to the border firing in one of his election rallies in Maharashtra. Modi said that Pakistan was getting the befitting lesson and it would not dare to open fire on the border.

    It may be recalled that the cease-fire agreement between India and Pakistan came into effect in November 2003. Thereafter there had been periodic fire from Pakistan side, which had to be routinely returned by the Indian forces posted at the LoC. Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh made a statement that Pakistan should understand that times have changed in India, an obvious reference to Bharatiya Janata Party under Narendra Modi coming to power at the centre with majority of its own.

    Reverting to the situation on the LoC, the Border Security Force (BSF) was handling the situation on the international border and it was BSF which was doing the firing across the LoC in Poonch, R.S. Pura and Arnia sectors. Reports say that instructions to Director General BSF, D.K. Pathak went out from the National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, who was in direct touch with DG, BSF over the period of 5 days in the first half of October 2014. The BSF reportedly fired more than 10,000 mortar shells, not to speak of countless ammunition, leading to an unprecedented situation in the border.

    Pakistan reported that 2 civilians were killed and about 100 injured on their side and also that scores of villages witnessed vacating of houses by the civilians moving away from the border. The former Chief of BSF E.N. Rammohan commented that earlier the exchange of fire was confined to LMGs and MMGs and now, mortars are being used which spelt danger to civilian lives who lived within 5000 meters range. He went on to comment, “civilians dying like this is absolutely absurd”.

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    An analyst had written that the flare up on the border came at the height of campaigning for Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana when Modi referred to Pakistan being taught lesson at a public rally in Maharashtra on October 9. A BSF Commandant said, “I am very proud, nobody, not even Indian Army has fired as much as we have into Pakistan since 1971 war. There were no restrictions this time and we kept on firing. Even the Army cannot boast of so much. At least no Army infantry battalion had fired mortars.”

    In Pakistan, Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif was a worried man and he summoned all the senior army officers for taking stock of the situation. Nawaz Sharif also dispatched his trusted adviser Shahryar Khan to Delhi for back channel work and to bring out normalcy on the border. Khan is the President of the Pakistan Cricket Control Board and his visit to India was ostensibly to discuss cricket fixtures with India, did not go much beyond that level, since no senior Indian back channel representative met him during his stay in Delhi.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meanwhile held a meeting attended by all senior Army commanders. Prime Minister Modi said that India had to be prepared for a changing world which demanded new thinking on economic, diplomatic and security policies. He asked them to be fully prepared for any eventuality. He also said that security challenges would be more unpredictable and invisible. On the Pakistan side, the Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif said at the Military Academy on October 18, that Pakistani forces are fully capable of meeting any external threat and that any aggression against Pakistan would get a befitting response.

    The Pakistani Army chief also digressed to the subject of Kashmir and said that the people of Kashmir should be allowed to decide their fate in the light of UN Resolutions. The growing tension between India and Pakistan had not escaped the attention of foreign observers. The Australian scholar Christopher Snedden, who has specialized on the subject of Kashmir and teaches at the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies, Honolulu, has commented that India’s new belligerence towards Pakistan is unhelpful and cited the cancellation of talks by the Indian Foreign Secretary with her counterpart in Pakistan over the Pakistan Ambassador’s meeting with Kashmiri separatists. Snedden went on to say that such meetings had routinely taken place in the past.

    Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif had attended Modi’s oath taking ceremony as the Prime Minister of India in New Delhi, on May 16, 2014, which he did ignoring the advice of the armed forces and hardliners, who were against his visiting India for the occasion. The border tensions and the disproportionate level of Indian reaction would lead to Pakistan analyzing and reviewing various options to retaliate against India. While there would not be any serious flare up between Indian and Pakistani forces in any sector. Pakistan Army Chief and the ISI Chief of Pakistan would be seriously exploring multiple ways of hurting India.

    At the diplomatic level, Pakistan had activated its diplomatic representative to brief UN members on the unfulfilled UN resolution for holding plebiscite in Kashmir for ascertaining views of the Kashmiri people regarding their options between India and Pakistan.

    While there will be no open war between India and Pakistan in the normally understood sense, that does not prevent Pakistan from activating its tools of terror like Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed in carrying out serious attacks within India. The National Security Guard (NSG) Chief J.N. Choudhury had warned on October 16 that the Al Qaeda and the ISIS may join hands with terror groups like Indian Mujahideen and carry out multicity multiple attacks in the country at the time of their choosing. Terror organizations like Lashkar-e- Toiba and Jaish-e- Muhammed will also be carried along in their dastardly scheme.

    The tensions between the two countries have to be seriously examined and ways and means to bring back normalcy should be worked out and implemented. India stands to lose much more if terrorist organizations are deployed in various cities in the country at a time of Pakistan’s choice. As this possibility is strong, this needs to be given serious consideration. Now that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has demonstrated his strength once again by decisively winning the elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, it is time for him to turn to the important issue of easing tensions between India and Pakistan.

    There was no meeting between Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan during the UN session in October as Modi was not interested in meeting with his Pakistani counterpart. The next opportunity comes up in November during the SAARC meeting in Nepal. It is hoped that the two Prime Ministers will have one to one meeting, with or without officials and work out a road map for future course of action.

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