What the Modi’s govt is up to?
Incidents of cross-border firing have been reported with frequency in the last months of 2016 as tensions simmered between Pakistan and India over the Kashmir issue. Earlier this week, three Pakistan Army soldiers were killed in Indian firing across the LoC. The incident occurred in the Thoob sector of Bhimber district. On November 14, 2016, seven Pakistani soldiers were killed in cross-border firing by Indian forces. In another incident on November 24, three Pakistan soldiers were killed and ISPR claimed the killing of seven Indian soldiers in the same incident. Last Tuesday, a 25-year-old construction worker was killed in unprovoked Indian firing in the Khui-ratta Sector, prompting the Foreign Office to summon the Indian Deputy High Commissioner and hand him a demarche. As expected, the issue came up for discussion at the army corps commanders’ monthly meeting on Wednesday, with the top brass warning that renewed ceasefire violations along the LoC and Western Border (WB) pose a threat to regional stability. The concern, of course, is that aside from the exchange of fire causing loss of life, any miscalculation on New Delhi’s part could lead to unforeseen consequences. Last September, for instance, India had claimed to have carried out a surgical strike inside Pakistani side of Kashmir. The claim was dismissed as false not only by Pakistan but many within that country as well. An actual adventure of this nature could easily spin out of control. India has the uncanny habit of ramping up tensions along the Line of Control whenever its relations with Pakistan take a nose dive. As with most other things, this unfortunate tendency has only become worse under the Narendra Modi government. After the militant attack of the Indian army camp in Kashmir, Modi launched what he called “surgical strikes” but which were just the usual round of unprovoked firing across the LoC. Now India is at it again and again. Modi was elected as prime minister after castigating the Congress government for being too soft on Pakistan. He beat the drums of war and continually blasted Pakistan as a terrorist state. But the nuclear deterrent means he cannot launch a full-scale war. These regular indefensible attacks across the LoC are his way of showing his ‘toughness’, both to Pakistan and an Indian public he has whipped into frenzy. Even a man as bloodthirsty as Modi must know that any firing across the LoC will lead to an equal amount of fire directed at Indian soldiers – and we have indeed claimed that there have been casualties on the Indian side – and that these exchanges disturb the peace without giving any side a tactical advantage. Yet he has been so boxed in by his own extremism that this seems to be the only strategy available to him. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has constantly been retching up tensions with Pakistan, escalating violence at the LoC and WB to deflect international attention from the latest wave of Kashmiri uprising, triggered by Indian security forces’ killing of a young Kashmir freedom fighter, Burhan Wani. Modi has also been threatening to divert Pakistan’s share of river waters – in violation of the Indus Water Treaty – to Indian farmers, and maligning Pakistan in international forums as the poster boy of bad behaviour accused of sponsoring terrorism. Furthermore, his proclaimed policy is to isolate Pakistan. Modi’s anti-Pakistan rhetoric and attempts to portray himself as the man who can deliver on his campaign vow to ‘teach Pakistan a lesson’ resonate with people in northern India. The escalation in violations of the 2003 ceasefire agreement seems to be aimed at winning votes in the upcoming crucial state elections in UP. It is worth noting, however, that Modi pays allegiance to the far-right, anti-Pakistan Hindu nationalist organizations whose agenda includes avenging – real or imagined – wrongs of history. A while ago, his National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, publicly stated that country’s ‘offensive defence’ strategy, is aimed at destabilizing Pakistan through a covert war. There are reports too of Indian military having updated its ‘Cold Start’ doctrine along with the induction of modern weaponry and improved infrastructure support near Pakistan’s borders. Given his agenda, Modi may be tempted to try this plan and launch a quick strike on this country. War gaming and real war, nonetheless, are two different things. He can start a war but no one can predict what the response, under a nuclear overhang, would lead to. The simmering hostilities need to be brought to an end for the sake of this region’s peace and stability as also the wellbeing of the two countries’ peoples. For its part, Pakistan has wisely kept the door to peace negotiations open despite New Delhi’s repeated rebuffs. As long as Modi is at the helm, Pak-India normalization is very unlikely to be realized. But his desire to teach Pakistan a lesson needs to be reined in. Perhaps, India’s strategic partner, the US, can play a role in this regard. It may be recalled that in an interview he gave an Indian newspaper last November, the then president-elect Donald Trump had said “I would love to see Pakistan and India get along, because that’s a very, very hot tinderbox… that would be very great thing. I hope I can do it.” The least he can do is to make India’s Prime Minister observe restraint and nudge him towards the talks table as talks are the only way out.