As summer arrives in J&K the South Asian boiling point remains relatively calm
By Sajid Yousuf and Ja
The ceasefire announced by Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) and international Border in Jammu and Kashmir on February 25 this year is nearing four months. Truce violations are their most subdued levels, providing the much-needed respite to the people residing in the border areas. In 2003 and 2018, India and Pakistan had signed ceasefire agreements but it was never implemented in letter and spirit, but this time around it appears that peace could acquire greater stability considering the reduced maneuverability of the extra-conventional tactics along the LoC.
Towards sustained stability:
Residents of border areas like Uri, Tangdhar, Kupwara and areas in Northern Kashmir during the past three months have heaved a sigh of relief. Natives of Churunda, Sarai Bandi and other villages close to the LoC in Uri sector have often remained in the line of fire of the aggression from Pakistan. These villages have witnessed unprovoked shelling since 1990. Ceasefire violations were mostly a ploy to provide cover to the infiltrators. In Sarai Bandi village six civilians were killed, many others sustained injuries and scores of residential houses were damaged on November 13, 2020 in the firing by Pakistani side .
Residents of this border hamlet and other villages have breathed a sigh of relief since February, hoping that guns fall silent forever. The LoC truce has rekindled hope of normalcy among the border populace.
Almost four months of truce has brought peace back in the lives of border dwellers. Their situation has been very sensitive as they used to get caught in the cross firing at any point of time. Residents are still skeptical about their future and want the government to expedite bunker construction. The summer has arrived in Kashmir and infiltration routes have opened up. According to the residents in Uri the government has constructed only one bunker, whereas the population is approximately 25,000 people. They are demanding setting up of individual or community bunkers. The population of about a dozen villages near the LoC in Uri is around 20-25,000 and more bunkers are needed to protect the civilians from the onslaught from the other side. However, the official figures stated that the Indian government had sanctioned Rs 415 crore for the construction of over 14,400 underground bunkers along the LoC and the International Border. Over 8,600 bunkers were constructed in Jammu region, officials had stated.
Ceasefire violations Statistics :
According to the official data, year 2020 recorded highest ever 5100 ceasefire violations by Pakistan in J&K in past 17 years along the Line of Control (LoC) that claimed 36 lives and left more than 130 people injured . In November 2020, on a single day, 10 civilians were killed in the Pakistani firing in north Kashmir’s Uri sector.
The year 2019 recorded over 3,200 instances of truce violations or an average of nine such violations daily. There were 3,289 truce violations by the Pakistan Army along the Indo-Pak border in 2019 of these, 1,565 violations took place after August 5, 2019—when the Indian government announced its decision to abrogate J&K’s special status and divided it into two union territories.
The data revealed in 2020, more than 5,000 incidents of ceasefire violation were recorded. In November 2020, on a single day, 10 civilians were killed in firing in North Kashmir’s Uri sector.
In 2018, J&K recorded 2,936 instances of ceasefire violations by Pakistan with an average of eight cases daily, in which 61 people were killed and over 250 injured.
In 2017, 971 cases of truce violations were reported in which 31 people — 12 civilians and 19 security forces personnel — were killed and 151 others suffered injuries.
According to the official data, 405 cases of ceasefire violations were reported in 2015, and 583 in 2014.
There was a gradual increase in truce violations by Pakistan between 2009 and 2013. The corresponding figures for 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009 were 347, 114, 62, 44, and 28 respectively. The numbers of such violations were 77 in 2008, 21 in 2007 and three in 2006. For three years – 2004, 2005 and 2006 – there was not a single such violation on the border .
In November 2020, Indian Army launched a counter offensive after ten civilians were killed in one day in Pakistan firing. A number of videos released by the Indian Army showed destruction of several Pakistani positions and bunkers across the LoC with some of them going up in flames following the Indian retaliation. According to intercepts of Pakistan Army’s communication, those killed included two commandos from its Special Service Group. In retaliation, a number of Pakistan Army bunkers, fuel dumps and militant launch pads across the LoC were targeted .
Equations between India and Pakistan changed after senior officials from both sides entered into talks last year, where international community, particularly the channels from the US and the UAE, is believed to have partly played a constructive role in facilitating these talks. Following the clandestine talks, the DGMOs from both the countries announced a truce in February.
Several offensive units posted along the LoC were asked to pull back but the regular soldiers meant for anti-infiltration grids remained stationed at their stated positions. The peace agreement along the LoC has proved mutually beneficial for both the countries .
The past peace initiatives, for instance the May 2018 ceasefire did not last long compared to the present one. Top Indian army officials have made it explicitly clear that the Army remains committed to fighting militancy and any such activities would be deal with as per the procedure. It is yet to be confirmed whether launch pads have permanently closed on the Pakistani side of the LoC. As the melting of snow makes this part of the year vulnerable to infiltrations, the coming two months are crucial if stability (if not perpetual peace) is to become a permanent feature and the Pakistani side needs to come clear on preventing infiltrations.
Within Kashmir itself, the constitutional change did not generate instabilities as the Pakistani side had projected to the international community, with some sections of the strategists accusing the Kashmiris of complacency, and not commensurate with diplomatic and covert efforts Pakistan had put for the past three decades. Within Pakistan itself, there are reports of the Army attempting to influence the political parties and the media to work towards promoting conducive atmosphere for the revival of the bilateral relationship. This should not be read as a unidirectional or a benevolent gesture since this could be the military’s way of testing the public perceptions and yet remaining behind the scenes. This fact (the military’s nudge to the media) was revealed in Hamid Mir’s recent statements which became very controversial. Besides this, an analysis of Gen Bajwa’s statements over these years have testified to his willingness to ease the tensions, but the societal obsession and ideological aspects of the Pakistani nationalism prevent the political and religious parties from any marginally flexible approach, even if the top leadership of the Army may wish it.
The Pakistani side needs to realise that cross border shelling, infiltrations and support to separatists have not helped its cause in J&K. Beyond exploiting some nuisance value, not much has been achieved on ground or in the international sphere. The practical way forward is to engage in talks and chart a mutual course of action for the issues that remain entangled beneath the nationalist egos. Any headway is only possible when sub-conventional warfare comes to an end, giving the much-needed confidence for the talks to take place in a conducive atmosphere.