Tag Archives: Farzana Acting Agencies

India and Pakistan – a Perpetual War: Decapitation vs. Capitulation

Are India and
Pakistan at war? If we take a pragmatic view, then there has never been peace
between the two nations. Does this translate into war? Should crossing the
border, killing soldiers, infiltrating be treated as war during peacetime?

On January 8,
the Pakistani army killed two Indian jawans, Lance-Naik Sudhakar Singh and
Lance-Naik Hemraj. It was made out to be as though they ambled across, fired at
the two, beheaded one and took away the head as trophy or proof. But this
wasn’t a random act. The mainstream media has largely been talking in terms of “giving
them a bloody nose” whether it is stated explicitly or implied.

Combat across
the Line of Control (LoC) where both countries are involved does not amount to “diversionary
manoeuvre to push infiltrators into J&K”, especially if the Intelligence
Bureau was aware of it.

Winters in Jammu and Kashmir were generally considered as downtime for infiltration, the snow
making it difficult for such incursion. If the IB had tipped off the Army, why
were there no adequate pre-emptive steps taken? This is where it gets
interesting.

False
peace

Pakistan has,
expectedly, denied any such killings. But what has the Indian government done?
It termed it “provocative action”. The Indian Army also called it “grave
provocation”. If the ceasefire is not respected, it is beyond provocation. This
is not some game.

Foreign minister
Salman Khurshid said: 

“I think it is important in the long term that what has
happened should not be escalated…We have to be careful that forces …
attempting to derail all the good work that’s been done towards normalisation
(of relations) should not be successful.”

Who are these abstract
forces that want to derail the peace process? Unlike in most countries that
have a dispute, here peace is the Damocles Sword that hangs over the heads of
India and Pakistan. It is ridiculously forced and caters primarily to the
commercial and elite classes that gain points at seminars and encourage
exchange of artistes to uphold a common heritage. If the heritage is common,
why do we need clones?

Has any treaty
been signed without ho-humming about the Kashmir issue? No. So, let us accept
that the two governments are not interested in peace or a solution to Kashmir.
We treat such casualties as collateral damage for a non-existent détente.





The two sides
have taken position – away from the border – and ironically both are using the
same excuse: non-state actors. This is particularly perplexing, for after the
26/11 attacks in Mumbai India had categorically blamed the Pakistani government
and finally its ‘non-state actor’ Ajmal Kasab was hanged to death. This time,
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has suggested that the mastermind behind
those attacks, Hafiz Saeed, was seen having a chat with people across the LoC
and therefore the Lashkar-e-Toiba could well be responsible.

How, then, can
we blame the Pakistani government for being in denial? If this is an act of
terror, then no government will accept the blame, even if there is complicity
and jihad training camps.

Besides, between
different versions of truth and lies, facts become the casualties. According to
a Reuters report

“The body of one of the
soldiers was found mutilated in a forested area on the side controlled by
India, Rajesh K. Kalia, spokesman for the Indian army’s Northern Command, said.
However, he denied Indian media reports that one body had been decapitated and
another had its throat slit.”

The theory of
provocation assumes that needling is part of our respective foreign policies.


Diversions

From provocation
to diversion is a small step. Pakistan accuses India of using such tactics to
hide its own record of such unwarranted killings. Pakistani senator and member
of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, Mushahid Hussain, while
accusing India of diverting attention from its domestic scandals, said,
“Pakistan has its hands full with a full-blown insurgency inside its borders.
It doesn’t suit Pakistani interests at all to raise the temperature along the
LoC.”

Such
straight-faced analysis is at best amusing. The simplistic subtext is that we
are so busy dealing with demons within that even if the devil aims at us we’d
be too preoccupied to react. The fact is that for the Pakistani army dealing
with inside forces is hardship posting.
The problem is
that the armies of India and Pakistan, though vastly different, have a lot at
stake. They need to ensure that the politicians are safe and always have an
issue to keep the dispute machinery well-oiled. The nationalism of the two
nation-states depends on it, not to speak of the varied responses of opposition
parties.
The Hindu had a
fairly balanced report that was slightly marred by its
sensational beginning about how a grandmother, 70-year-old Reshma Bi, crossing
the LoC “sparked off a spiral of violence”. This happened in September last
year, and the report itself mentions how construction of barriers to prevent
movement had been taking place for a while now, opposed by Pakistan. There are
many grandmothers and grandchildren who have been separated.
The article
quoted a senior government official who said, “Let’s just put it this way, there
was no formal permission to stage a cross-border raid to target Sawan Patra.
However, in the heat of fighting, these things have been known to happen.
Pakistan has done this, and our forces have done this, ever since fighting
began in Jammu and Kashmir in 1990.” Another military official said, “It is
almost certainly a retaliation for what happened in Charonda. This kind of
thing has often happened in the past, though it hasn’t got quite so much media
attention.”
This could well
be only one of the reasons. Pakistan has objected to the barrier for years. It
is already equipped with state-of-the-art alerting techniques and electrified
barbed wire fencing. If a grandmother can cross over, it would not be too
difficult for lithe soldiers, not to speak of the more driven terrorists.

The LoC is a 460 mile stretch. By bringing villagers
into the discussion, ordinary people are made into suspects. It also does not
quite address the real issue of who is violating the ceasefire – India for
adding more barriers to prevent infiltration (that seems nebulous enough to
allow crossing over to the other side) or Pakistan for objecting to it and then
taking an aggressive stand, which results in retaliation?
Kargil’s
no show
Many commentators are making a disingenuous
comparison of the recent incident with the Kargil face-off in 1999. It is India’s
nemesis. A father tired of demanding justice for his son because of the Indian government’s
apathy has been forced to approach the Supreme Court. 

Captain Saurabh Kalia,
the hero has a road and a forest park named after him as well as a statue. His
father does not think that can erase the torture he went through where his body
was mutilated beyond recognition in a most inhuman manner.
For 13 years his
fight has continued: “I have approached three
presidents. From all of them, I have just received one standard reply: ‘Your
letter has been received and would be forwarded for necessary action’…I am
afraid every parent would think twice to send their wards in the armed forces
if we all fall short of our duty of safeguarding the prisoners of war and let
them meet the fate of Lt Saurabh Kalia.” (He was promoted on the battlefield.)
If this had happened to American or Israeli soldiers the culprits would have
been hounded around the globe. I received assurances from the government, but
in due course the matter got diluted.”

Here, it must be mentioned that the Armed Forces
Tribunal had dismissed his case on the grounds that it did not come under its
jurisdiction. Pakistan cannot take action against its soldiers because they say
they have not been identified. It is a bilateral government issue.
The
third option
There is a
constant demand to take these incidents to the International Court of Justice.
The Geneva Convention does have a small provision for peacetime intervention,
but there will be splitting of hairs whether such cases fall into human rights
abuses. If there is aggression from both sides, there may not be scope for
parity in justice.

In this
particular case, there is also the obvious problem of the LoC not even being
recognised as an international border. It is a mutually agreed-upon division
between India and Pakistan to have a ‘no-man’s land’.
A day before this
incident, Inder Malhotra had written in The Indian Express about
General Ayub Khan after the 1965 war with India “…he was deeply worried that
his people, misled by his government’s false propaganda that Pakistan had won
the war, might not accept a ceasefire on the terms set by the UNSC. Since
Pakistan’s entire strategy was to use brief military action within Kashmir to
force India to negotiate on this ‘core issue’, he insisted that the ceasefire
be accompanied by an agreement to ‘settle the Kashmir issue through
negotiations and, if necessary, arbitration’. Indeed, he seemed convinced that
he could shame his American allies — who had ‘betrayed’ him after the ‘Indian invasion’
  into supporting Pakistan over the
inclusion of Kashmir in the UN resolution.”

It is pertinent
that while Pakistan has wanted to internationalise such cases, India has been
reluctant.
It is good policy. However, the intentions are not as simple as they
appear. (On a tangential note, it was shocking to watch an Indian armyman on a
panel discussion state that we should have bargained with the United States for
leverage over Pakistan by using our commercial markets as bait.)
The moment any
activity in the region is taken to an international forum, the army’s own
record detailed by the International Human Rights Commission will come tumbling
out. And there are clear provisions to protect the civilian population
according to the Geneva Convention.
This fact is
known to the separatists who have often demanded that their cause be given a
global platform. The mainstream media pulls them up for being anti-national.
Yet, the past few days television channels have been shouting about how the
government needs to take it up with a ‘third party’. Any government that needs
outside assistance – unless it is a non-partisan intervention during wartime –
is insecure.
Unfortunately,
we are willing to use this insecurity as bait. “What kind of animals do you
have?” asked the host on a news channel to a participating armyman in Pakistan.
The provocation had moved into the confines of a studio.
“Remember Kargil?” he prodded. The Pakistani shook
his head and then said, “Yes, your soldiers were crying.” This is what happens
when the war lands up in the studios. One might add here that Kargil was
India’s first war with Pakistan where the bunkers became TV news. This formed the
template for what we are seeing today. The real-time accounts of blood and gore
generate extreme aggression in the peaceful populace that is even sold peace
aggressively.   
(c) Farzana Versey