Heating up the LoC
Human mind is ingenious beyond limits. Why should India raise tensions on the Line of Control by attacking a Pakistani post and kill a soldier when after a long hiatus the cricket teams of the two countries were on the ground in New Delhi for the first time? Or, why is India beating the war drums when Pakistan is well into preparations for a critical general election? Quite a few answers come to the mind.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2013
But let's first hear what the two sides have to say about the Sunday incursion by the Indian troops into AJK and the Indian government's claim of an attack by the Pakistani troops. On Sunday, the Indian forces attacked a Pakistani post along the LoC, killing a soldier and injuring two others. The attack was entirely unprovoked earning New Delhi a protest note and raising concerns all over the world including Washington and Beijing. Two days later, the Indian government made the counter-claim of an attack by the Pakistani troops. According to it, two Indian soldiers were killed as its patrol was ambushed. If the counter-claim was seemingly a cover-up and the Indian army spokesman was a bit professional in his take on the purported incident the Indian media was not; it went viral alleging that 'the raiding squad beheaded one of the dead Indian soldiers and took away his head' - as if the Pak Army was a terrorist outfit. Strangely but not entirely unexpectedly, Indian foreign minister Salman Khurshid went on air to dare Pakistan "this is unacceptable, ghastly ...and extremely short-sighted on their part". But his comment was a day ahead of "careful consideration of the details", betraying absence of discretion expected of the country's top diplomat.
As to what is cooking up; there is no definite conclusion, though some deductions can be made. Foreign Minister Khurshid won't rest until the Indian government takes "steps that are meaningful and effective". In a situation like the one on the Line of Control after years of relative peace, the sudden spurt in tension is certainly an abnormal and out of routine development. As to how the Pakistan military interprets the situation, there is no direct answer. But the latest Corps Commanders meeting in Rawalpindi and Army Chief General Kayani's address at Sialkot garrison do offer some clue. At the Corps Commanders moot the army high command confirmed validity of its concept that Pakistan today is faced with conventional and sub-conventional threats - simply stated threats of internal insecurity and foreign aggression. As to some elaboration of this concept General Kayani's Sialkot speech is quite relevant; he had underscored the need "to fully remain prepared to respond to full spectrum of threat, be it direct (read foreign aggression) or indirect (read low-intensity conflict)" - like the one envisaged by Indian military's doctrine of "cold start". In Rawalpindi, there's no taker of the proposition made as a basis for reasoning without any assumption of its truth that India would bleed Pakistan military by its low-intensity conflicts, like the one that has happened on the Line of Control in Kashmir (and thus take nuclear clash out of context) instead of a full-throttled confrontation. If you want a war then have it, the general is believed to have conveyed to his counterpart across the border.
Maybe as some people think the Manmohan Singh government, confronted as it is by a hawkish BJP, gives too docile a look that doesn't fit the self-conceived "emerging India" prowess and power and is out to refurbish that public image. Or, New Delhi is still taking too much time to shun its bellicose posturing vis-à-vis Pakistan. Whatever be on its mind the India's rulers should not muddy Pakistani waters when it is going for a crucial election. So if both the United Sates and China have expressed their concerns over escalation of tensions along the Line of Control one is not greatly surprised - perhaps they know as to what is cooking up in the Indian capital. Admitted, cricket diplomacy is working and there is tangible progress in areas like trade and cultural contacts. But you cannot have good business and bad politics with Pakistan at the same time. New Delhi has to work with Islamabad in tandem at all four planes - military, political, business and cultural - to ensure longer-term sustainability and usefulness of bilateralism.