Repeated ceasefire violations across the Line of Control (LoC) separating India and Pakistan have been causing grave concerns since the past year. In addition, the downturn of events in the past few months has hugely escalated tensions in bilateral relations. In August 2014 India called off foreign secretary-level talks with Islamabad on the grounds that its neighbour had been routinely engaging with the separatist forces in Kashmir. On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly Meeting in September, 2014 the apparent lack of bonhomie between the two Prime Ministers made evident the coldness of bilateral ties.
The recent unprovoked ceasefire violations from the Pakistani side (such as on 2 November) and India's bid to respond in kind have led to several military as well as civilian causalities on both sides, causing the situation to take a turn for the worse.
In order to stem the escalating tension it is important to investigate the internal politics and power dynamics playing out on both sides of the LoC, for there is much more to the situation than what meets the eye.
"By calling off talks with the government and getting militarily provoked, New Delhi is playing into the hands of the army and ISI."
Historically, the army in Pakistan has always tightly held the reins of power. Even today when Pakistan has a democratically elected civilian government in place, the army enjoys enough space to play decisive games internally as well as externally. There are sufficient reasons to believe that the repeated ceasefire violations from the Pakistani side are an outcome of the machinations of the Army and the ISI, with limited or no role of the civilian government. Let us consider two of the reasons.
First, by destabilising the region through military adventurism, the army could succeed in deviating international attention away from Pakistan's internal problems -- of terrorism, insurgencies in Waziristan, political turmoil and power tussles.
Secondly, and more importantly, if relations between New Delhi and Islamabad get more strained and the government of Pakistan is arm-twisted and diplomatically isolated, the democratic civilian government of Pakistan will be further marginalised and shrunk, vacating more space for the army to sprawl.
Either way, the Pakistani army benefits.
India's response to the present situation seems to arise entirely out of its misunderstanding of this power tussle between the civilian government and the Pakistani army. By calling off talks with the government and getting militarily provoked, New Delhi is playing into the hands of the army and ISI. The army intends to deflect the international glare away from the internal situation, and to shrink the Pakistani government under foreign pressure. Both these purposes are being served as India has decided to block diplomatic channels and give only a retaliatory military response to the provocations of the Pakistani army.
Neither of the countries can allow the Pakistani army to muster clout. An emboldened army in Islamabad would be devastating for both India and Pakistan, as well as the region as a whole.
To prevent the army from gaining more muscle, it is mandatory for the two governments to open dialogue channels as the first step. This shall be uncomfortable for New Delhi as it would lead to "perception" issues -- the new government under Prime Minister Modi has tried to reorient the foreign policy towards a more muscular posture. Re-establishing diplomatic channels under military pressure will tarnish popular perception of the new government and the PM himself.
It must, however, be pointed out that though foreign policy is run a great deal through perception, it inevitably leads to disaster if perception is allowed to hijack the strategic direction of the foreign policy.
Therefore, it is necessary for the Indian government to step out of its comfort zone and engage with the government of Pakistan. Responding only militarily to provocations engineered and orchestrated by the Pakistani army without diplomatic communications is self defeating.
A safe and secure Pakistan under a stable democratically elected civilian government is in the interest of not only India but the region as a whole. To this end a close diplomatic engagement between the two governments is mandated.
The two governments must work in close complementary cooperation to defeat the machinations of the Pakistani army which has been destabilising the entire South Asian region.
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