The recent flare-up in tensions between India and Pakistan, followingthe killing of two soldiers, including the beheading of one, which was precededby low-grade exchange of gunfire leading to ceasefire violations from both thesides, can be attributed to the failure of military leadership of both sides in engaging in purposeful talksto solve the local-level tensions. If de-escalation efforts are not undertaken,the situation might keep on repeating in future.
The gruesome incident was given heavy publicity in both thecountries, with political leaders from both sides playing to the galleries, usingstrong words against the each other.
The incident specially helped the Pakistan military in improvingits image within the domestic audience of Pakistan, which was seriously dentedever since the Abbottabad Operation took place in which Osama Bin Laden waskilled by US Navy SEALs in 2011.
Eventually, the leadership realized that not much can begained by hurling accusations against each other for the breach of ceasefire,and a Brigadier-level flag meet was held between both the countries.
However, the escalation of tensions has already startedshowing its colours as the much awaited travel policy for allowing visa-freeentry of senior citizens was stalled by India. Also, the nine Pakistani hockeyplayers, who were to take part in the Hockey India League tournament, were sentback.
The incident demonstrated yet again how vulnerable the twocountries remain to slightest provocation. However, this was not for the firsttime that the ceasefire had been violated. There have been 72 incidents ofceasefire violations between the two countries in the past 13 months.
And this has continued with increasing frequency, in spiteof field commanders of both the countries holding regular meetings and theDirector General of Military Operations (DGMOs) from both sides being connectedto each other through a hotline.
The problem lies in the fact that the communication betweenthe military personnel from both sides is less frequent and most of the timefails to resolve the local-level tensions.
The recent atrocity was one such case, the culmination of aseries of incidents that began in September, when a 70-year old grandmother,Reshma Bi, left her village of Charonda near Uri to be with her sons andgrandchildren living across the LoC.
This led the Indian military to build observation bunkers inthe region to monitor the movement of villagers. Tensions escalated and matterscame to a head on in January with both countries exchanging gunfire, finallyleading to January 8 incident.
This shows that the CBMs undertaken are not sufficient tomaintain a state of calm. It helps little when the leadership in India talksabout getting “10 heads for one” and “it cannot be business as usual” betweenthe two sides, or the Pakistani counterpart accusing India of “warmongering”and educated Pakistani ruling class saying such incidents will continue unlessthe Kashmir issue is solved.
The ceasefire agreed to by both the nations in 2003 has beenby far the most significant part of the peace process and had brought relief tothe lives of the people living along both sides of the LoC.
But such CBMs have been violated time and again and have thepotential to lead to dangerous consequences.
Winters are extremely harsh and inhospitable along theborder area in the north and sometimes there may be a lax in guard, which canbe taken advantage of by the military on the other side.
Indian military can increase its personnel during suchconditions and enhance the deployment of technical means to aid its soldiersand enhance operational readiness.
These measures will help in enhancing security of the Indianborders, but in no way is it a comprehensible solution to the grave dangersposed by ceasefire violation.
Securing the ceasefire and keeping the peace process ontrack is something that the military leaders can achieve if local-leveltensions are not given a chance to flare up by frequent and fruitfulcommunication, and amicable solution.
The recent skirmish should not be allowed to escalate - thisfact is something that the military and political leadership of both sides isslowly waking up to, for if it does not, such incidents will continue to flareup in future severely impairing the relations between the two countries.