Without giving thought to the larger picture, the Narendra Modi government adopted the “surgical strike” posture in 2016 to look valiant.
Though many ceasefire violations, some quite serious, have occurred since 2003, when Pakistan signed an agreement with India to not allow this, transgressions were sorted out by invoking this deal. By and large, the spirit of the ceasefire was not thought to be dead. The events across the Line of Control last weekend, when India said it retaliated hard as Pakistan violated the ceasefire in Tangdhar area to give covering fire to infiltrating terrorists from launchpads across the LoC, will guide us in understanding whether even the spirit of the agreement between Gen. Pervez Musharraf, as President, and then PM Atal Behari Vajpayee, now survives.
India had prided itself on its troops not violating the LoC, rightly holding violations were done by Pakistan to aid infiltration. This was needed to persuade the world of Islamabad’s use of terrorism as an instrument of policy in Kashmir and elsewhere.
Without giving thought to the larger picture, the Narendra Modi government adopted the “surgical strike” posture in 2016 to look valiant. This was for electoral reasons. In doing so, it turned its back on the long-held view that violating the truce and crossing the LoC was a Pakistani speciality.
In response to the Pulwama attack on a CRPF convoy, the Balakot attack in late February, in which Indian fighter jets crossed the LoC to hit targets inside Pakistan, effectively put a seal of finality on a new tactical line regarding Pakistan. This renders the 2003 pact on not violating the ceasefire wholly irrelevant. The new mantra is — if Pakistan violates the truce, India reserves the right to reply in kind.
What this does, in turn, is to allow the theoretical possibility of things getting out of hand — a strategic miscalculation by either side, quite by accident. This bespeaks a parlous state in policy terms.
Whether this derives from poverty of thinking, or a display of pseudo-nationalistic fervour in which the readiness to go to any military length to appear bold (to intimidate the foe) is paramount, is not easily discernible. Nobody outside India is impressed, of course. Within the country, it’s those in the top tiers of government who are the most impressed.
There is a case for dispelling this air of self-congratulation in the aftermath of the August 5 move on Kashmir, which appears to have had a negative effect on the internal security situation in the Valley despite the greatly enhanced force levels. Resort to diplomacy is always available to persuade Pakistan that a show of belligerence on the LoC is in no one’s interest. It’s also time our military leaders lowered their own decibel levels.