Friday, 03 January 2014 |
How should India judge whether Nawaz Sharif is going to respect the sanctity of the Line of Control? In his first term as Prime Minister, his handpicked ISI chief staged the 1993 Mumbai blasts
The return of Mr Nawaz Sharif to power in Pakistan was marked by pious statements by him on peace and stability on the one hand and by inflammatory rhetoric describing Kashmir as Pakistan’s ‘jugular vein’ on the other. Whether it was at the United Nations in New York or at the White House, Mr Sharif chose to return to his stale rhetoric of Kashmir being the ‘core issue’ between India and Pakistan, implicitly asserting that there could be a nuclear holocaust unless Pakistan reached a satisfactory solution to the issue with India. This rhetoric was accompanied by the unleashing of an old Sharif family retainer Hafiz Mohammed Saeed to spew venom, threatening conflict against India not only on Kashmir, but also for allegedly diverting and depriving Pakistan’s people of their vital water resources. The Pakistan Army has augmented this diplomatic effort, by claiming that it will use tactical nuclear weapons in the event of Indian retribution to future 26/11 Mumbai style terrorist attacks.
Mr Sharif’s apologists in South Block, of course claimed that he had really had a “change of heart” and that he cherished nothing more than peace and harmony with India. Yet, Mr Sharif’s return to power was marked by 195 cease-fire violations, with the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba even choosing to attack an Army officers’ mess in the Jammu Sector and with Indian jawans being beheaded elsewhere, by infiltrators crossing the Line of Control. South Block did not do its credibility any good by misleading the Union Minister for Defence AK Antony to first claim and then retract from a statement he made, absolving the Pakistan Army of its sins. It was against this background that it was agreed at the New York Summit that the Directors General of Military Operations would meet and devise measures to deescalate tensions across the LoC.
Given their desire for a civilian shield, behind which they like to avoid responsibility for their actions on the LoC the Pakistan Army stalled on the proposal, by insisting that delegations should by headed by civilian officials. But, they ultimately had to yield when India insisted that the talks should be between DGMOs as agreed to in New York. Firmness pays and the DGMO talks held on the Wagah border yielded some positive results. The most important part of the Joint Statement issued at Wagah on December 24 was agreement between the DGMO’s to “maintain the sanctity (of) and ceasefire on the Line of Control”. They also agreed to make the existing hotline between them more effective. Two flag meetings between Brigade Commanders on the LoC were also agreed to, for maintaining peace and tranquillity across the LoC.
The successful meeting of the DGMOs was followed by a meeting between Commanders of the Border Security Force and the Pakistan Rangers in which there was forward movement on effective use of existing communications and on illegal constructions close to the border. Most importantly, people who cross the border inadvertently do not, hopefully, have to spend months incarcerated.
While some tend to link these developments to the exit of the hard-nosed former General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, this ignores the reality that there is nothing to suggest that there is any change in the Pakistani Army’s long-term policies of supporting radical groups like the Afghan Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, for promoting violence across Pakistan’s borders with India and Afghanistan. It also now appears that there are differences between the Army and the political establishment on using force against the Tehriq-e-Taliban e Pakistan, in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Mr Sharif, Imran Khan’s Tehriq-e-Insaf, which rules the Pakhtunkhwa Province and Islamist Parties like the Jamat-e-Islami are all opposed to the use of force against the TTP. But, the Army has interestingly commenced operations against the TTP, in North Waziristan, home of the infamous Haqqani network, which operates from this area against Afghan and Nato forces in Afghanistan.