The entire coverage of the ceasefire violations at the LoC reminds me of the Israel Palestine conflict. Superior to Palestine in military and economic strength, Israel has time and again waged war, maintaining that its actions are always in retaliation to aggression by terror groups in Palestine. It is a narrative ingrained in the international English news media, primarily because it fits the ‘War on Terror’ template. However, it ignores how Israel has been slowly
capturing Palestinian territory, isolating its civilians, and keeping them under the jack-boots of its military – all in the name of fighting terror. On the other side, the pro-Palestinian media elements claim Israel are the aggressors, highlighting civilian casualties to make their case – glossing over the political support behind Palestinian militant outfits used to balance the power scales in the conflict. There are clearly agenda driven narratives surrounding the conflict, and in this information war, Israel outguns and outmans the Palestinians. Similarly, the narratives surrounding the LoC violations can use a little more honesty.
Neither India nor Pakistan is the aggressor or the victim at the LoC. In one of the most militarized zones in the world, posts are manned by well-trained and patriotic soldiers, who are geared to retaliate immediately and effectively. When under fire, any soldier will seldom undergo a moral dilemma over what is the appropriate response, or will attempt to fathom the geo-political repercussions of his actions. He picks up a gun and fires back with the intention to kill. Moreover, with the long rope given to border forces, local commanders at the LoC also play a significant role, invoking their agenda on how best to safeguard their troops and stem the firing from the other side. The debate on who started firing first is meaningless. The information primarily comes from the Pakistan and Indian military sources, and no side will admit who fired first. Both sides have drawn enough blood without provocation. The reality is that the Indian army is superior in numbers and firepower to the Pakistan army. There is relative calm at the LoC because the Indian forces have hammered the Pakistani posts, reducing their capability to hit back.
The significant change in the India-Pakistan dispute under the new government is that Prime Minister Modi has established new red lines for the Pakistan government and has not given out any mixed signals on his stance. There was weak diplomatic pressure on Pakistan under the Congress government, as it insisted on dialogue despite repeated infiltration and ceasefire violations. The Modi government on the other hand has called off flag meetings over the ceasefire violations and even called off the secretary level talks last month after the Pakistan envoy met separatist leaders. There has been no shift on that stance. The geopolitical situation is also tilted in India’s interest. Pakistan’s attempts to bring the Kashmir issue to the international stage are also not working. Nations are now uninterested in intervening in the conflict, calling for a bilateral resolution. Pakistan’s latest attempt to seek intervention from the UN was denied on the same grounds. There is now increasing pressure on Pakistan to sever the diplomatic link with the separatist groups in Kashmir, and engage only with India on the Kashmir issue.
India’s military response has been the same, but its diplomatic stance has become tougher. Yet, in this position, it will be naïve of us to think that we are victorious victims on the righteous side of the battle. Given our military strength at the border, given the emotional nature of these conflicts, there are a number of factors, which make the Indian army as much an aggressor as Pakistan at the Line of Control. Yet, the Pakistan government must come to terms with India’s superior military and diplomatic strength. It must adhere to the red lines chalked out by the Modi government if it truly desires peace and better relations.