Army Calling The Shots In Pakistan Again?

ISLAMABAD (TIP): The Pakistani aggressors who killed Indian soldiers and mutilated their bodies may have undermined one of the key factors underpinning the peace process. Pakistan lured India, deeply distrustful of its intent post-26/11, to the negotiation table by promising that the Pakistani Army was on the same page as the Zardari government on the restoration of normalcy in ties. The brutality on the Line of Control (LoC) raises doubts about the credibility of the promise, and prompt India to take a fresh look at its options. More so, because India was in any case expecting that Pakistan is likely to get more “assertive” in Jammu & Kashmir, which may be a direct consequence of the US-sponsored role the Pakistan Army believes it is playing to bring the Taliban into Afghan government in Kabul.

The latest Pakistani provocation, including beheading an Indian soldier during an infiltration bid in Kashmir, on Tuesday did not come as a huge surprise to the strategic leadership of this government. The brutality of the attack was unexpected and carried reminders of a similar attack by Ilyas Kashmiri over a decade ago. On the face of it, Pakistani government has really no proximate reason to escalate temperatures on their eastern flank. Their western flank remains under pressure of both Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, drone attacks and terrorism inside Pakistan have been on with unflinching regularity. There are no elections due any time soon, so there is really no reason to whip up nationalist sentiment inside Pakistan by invoking the India bogey. The Pakistani Army is in no particular danger from the civilians, in fact, quite the contrary.

All the reasons for Pakistan to concentrate on its western flank continue to hold. So why would Pakistan resort to this kind of provocation that could invite a sharper Indian response? But something has changed. The change actually started a few years ago. In the years since Pervez Kayani has taken over the reins of the Pakistan Army, infiltration into India has steadily increased. Nothing eye-popping, but the charts have kept ticking. India, desperate to maintain a show of peace and a modicum of normalcy, has routinely glossed over the increased numbers of terrorists being pushed in. Indian forces’ ability to intercept terrorists has also increased, which has resulted in less “incidents”. But the fact remains, infiltration has not stopped. Government sources had confirmed that last year saw the highest levels of infiltration in the past five years.

In recent weeks, Pakistan has been pulled out of the doldrums after suffering its worst couple of years with the US. Its renewed sense of importance lies in once again being identified as the key to peace in Afghanistan. With the US preparing to turn off the lights in Afghanistan by 2014 – some say, even this year – the concerted western effort there is to go the tried and tested way. The Pakistani Army is once again being given the keys to the peace effort in Afghanistan, by being asked to broker a deal with the Taliban, to bring them into the government. New Delhi has been very unhappy at the turn of events, because they reckon that the price would be paid by increased terrorism against India by Pakistan-supported elements. This week’s incident may just be the beginning of a difficult period.

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