Representative image. Photograph:( ANI )
The newsbreak of Indian and Pakistani Director General Military Operations (DGMOs) agreeing to "fully implement the 2003 ceasefire understanding in letter and spirit", through a special hotline talk comes as a pleasant surprise to affected population, more so after Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj indicated that dialogue and terror cannot go together a day earlier.
The idea of resolving issues through hotline and flag meeting is not new and has failed many times in past, however, it may give a temporary relief to the affected innocent people on the borders/Line of Control, till Pakistan releases the existing temporary international pressure on it, to abrogate ceasefire again.
Why is Pakistan talking about peace?
It was well known to the entire global community that most of the terrorist organisations are based in Pakistan, and several reports have claimed that they are sponsored by Pakistani Army and ISI. The pressure, however, started building on them only after it fell out of step with US for not taking adequate actions against the Haqqani network and al-Qaeda. The list of UN declared global terrorists expanded, and US President Donald Trump declared new South Asia policy putting them under financial and diplomatic pressure.
Pakistan temporarily sought China's help in withstanding the US pressure, but Beijing too not very happy with refueling of ETIM operating in Xinjiang by Pakistani militants, is carrying on with them due to heavy investment in CPEC, and with a condition that their men working on the project will be protected. During the BRICS Summit, China too reluctantly agreed to name LeT and JeM as terror groups. China, under international pressure of supporting radicalised Pakistan, felt the heat when the threat of Financial action Task Force (FATF) declaring it grey/black became evident. China has understood that CPEC cannot progress unless Pakistan sees some sense in peace and takes some concrete measures to showcase it. The biggest problem is that if Pakistan is declared grey/black by FATF in June then most of the investors for CPEC, including Chinese enterprises, may back out of the project. Despite Chinese denial, a possibility of them having advised Pakistan army to see sense is a reasonable possibility, otherwise expecting Pakistan army chief indicating to talk peace, and rumors of Chinese advice to move Hafiz Saeed to West Asia, cannot be without a pressure. Pakistan on the other hand finds the political cost of shifting Saeed too heavy and continues to try to give him back door entry into politics with LeT fully aligned to Pakistan Army and ISI.
Why Pakistan's adherence to ceasefire and peace is 'too good to be true'?
The peace between India and Pakistan is unfortunately marred with an inseparable historic baggage of animosity, military coups and resultant instability which continues even now. The 1971 war, besides dividing Pakistan and leading to creation of Bangladesh, resulted in 90,000 prisoners of war for the victorious Indian Army. Pakistan army could never forget it, and keeps trying to wipe this scar. Today the same generation of military is not in power, but the thought to avenge professional shame is alive with their military.
President Zia's 'Islamic Republic of Pakistan' became breeding ground for Islamic terrorism. With Taliban and Wahhabism on the rise, Pakistan witnessed a change in psyche and ideology through madrassas. Kashmir is an obvious target to avenge. The ethnic cleansing of people of Balochistan and Pashtuns makes Pakistan further unstable. Due to internal instability, Pakistan army could project itself as the only option available to protect their country against India hence they justify holding the reins of power. Their influence and relevance is due to 'Indian threat' and a 'boiling Kashmir valley'.
Pakkistan's former President Pervez Musharraf further nurtured militants, used them in proxy wars as 'strategic assets' and this reality has not changed. In this backdrop, every effort for peace is expected to fail. With Pakistan giving a ruling about Gilgit-Baltistan which is a sovereign territory of India, I do not see any peacefulness in Indo-Pak relations in near future.
Did Non Initiation of Combat Operations (NICO) have any impact on ceasefire?
The ideas like ceasefire and declaration of NICO were tried earlier in the year 2000, but failed. Pakistan neither reciprocated the gesture nor promised to hold fire. In fact they started the trans-border firing on the first day of Ramzan. It was expected that with development and 'Embracing Kashmiris' by suspending combat operations during Ramzan will alienate the population against militants trying to disturb peace. In the present declaration, the deployment and intelligence grid of security forces is not being disturbed, but they can take retaliatory action, only if militants fire at them. The fact that declaration was rejected by terrorist groups, who intend to continue their actions during the holy month of Ramzan, as well as separatist groups enjoying state protection, means that it is waiting to fail, as their narrative has been written by Pakistan. Let me analyse the possibilities under the present model of NICO:
How should India respond to changing realities?
As there are no easy answers for a lasting peace between India and Pakistan, India cannot afford to put its guard down on account of ceasefire. India should not be talking to Pakistan unless it shuns proxy war. India needs to declare a well thought state policy on the subject, because any wavering of stance can be construed as a weakness. War with Pakistan is not a worthwhile economical option, but India can look at overt and covert options against militants. While India expects the entire world to declare Pakistan a terror state, it is yet to scrap the 'Most Favored Nation' status accorded to it. India should also take up the issue of Balochistan in all world forums along with terrorism brewing in Pakistan. India needs to use the leverage of water sharing also with Pakistan. Internally, the decision makers need to have an honest intention to resolve it. The allurement of vote bank politics has to be subordinated to national interest.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)