Ceasefire in Kashmir: Mediation or Dictation?

By K N Pandita

A major apprehension of our military brass as well as sections of the civil society is that the ceasefire agreement between the two militaries arrived at on 25 February 2021 may meet with a fate not different from that of the 2003 truce agreement. The Hindustan Times of 29 December 2020 reported that Pakistani forces violated the ceasefire 5,100 times in 2020 with an average of 14 cases a day. These had resulted in the loss of 36 lives including 24 security personnel; 130 were injured. Fifteen soldiers died along the LoC in the Jammu region.

Clashes, firing, shelling or clandestine tunnelling across the LoC/IB by Pakistan matches her declared state policy of “inflicting a thousand cuts on India’s body”, or the “unfinished task of partition” or “the jugular vein of Pakistan” or “the extension of the Great Asian Game of the heyday of the British colonial power. The non-state actors in Pakistan have been fed with an inexhaustible fund of anti-India propaganda. Is Pakistan able to de-activate scores of her armed non-state actors and outfits?

In Pakistan no regime can survive if it deviates from its cast-iron anti-India policy. When Rajiv Gandhi-Benazir Bhutto bilateral talks made some progress, ISI clipped Madam’s wing. When Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif began soft-paddling on Kashmir, the Pak army chief ostracized his prime minister. In these conditions, a sudden breakdown of the current truce cannot be ruled out. Foreign Office spokesman was right in saying that the truce does not mean lowering the vigil on the LoC against infiltration.”

Many reasons, mostly hypothetical, are given for Pakistan agreeing to a ceasefire. We cannot buy sensational stories of some irresponsible sections of the press. Neither the Pak defence establishment is gone weak on Kashmir nor are the non-state outfits in that country faced with a shortage of manpower. Commentators knowledgeable about the deep state know that charitable words like “Pakistan and India must resolve the long-standing issue of Jammu and Kashmir in a dignified and peaceful manner as per the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” uttered by General Bajwa while addressing the Pakistan Air Force Asghar Khan Academy in Risalpur of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa on February 3, are the reflection of a borrowed statement and not an expression of conviction.

Pakistan interprets the word ‘peace’ quite differently. She wants peace along the border so that her numerous jihadi outfits and the volunteers of other jihadi groups prepare for making the geography of the grand Islamic Caliphate from the Dardanelles to the Straits of Malacca in which Kashmir occupies the central place. Pakistan wants peace along her western border so that she can dig tunnels, raise bunkers, reinforce manpower, mobilise war machine all along the LoC and continue the surveillance of villages and habitats close to the border on the Indian side to be targeted for shelling and firing.

How then did the ‘miracle’ of ceasefire happen? Responding to the question of a reporter Moeed Yusuf, Pakistan’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to the PM broke the diplomatic protocol by counter-questioning him, “Do you think this could happen without efforts or pressure, something which India has not agreed to all these months and years?” Yusuf went on to say, “So, this is our success, the success of diplomacy and god willing more roads will open in the future, so that the resolution of Kashmir that we want, the way we want will happen”.

Now, firstly, the crux of Yusuf’s narrative is (a) sustained efforts, and (b) pressure (on India). Those who made sustained efforts were Pakistan and her lobbyists; and those who brought pressure on India could be none other than the Americans and their lobbyists. Secondly, in the words of Yusuf, Pakistan considers the ceasefire as its success because India was neither prepared to talk nor agree to mediation before the infiltration by the jihadists and fighting in Kashmir stopped. She agreed to talk only after Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire. She agreed to a third-party role only after the US condemned and rejected cross-border infiltration. In international relations, things do not happen in a vacuum. Resolution of chronic logjams is done partly by mediation and partly by dictation. General Bajwa was re-telling only the dictation part of the narrative.

About the question of mediation, the Biden administration has chalked a different road map. It bluntly told Crown Prince Salman that the US will no more support the war in Yemen as it causes senseless bloodshed. Further, the US has banned the sale of arms to the Saudis. Washington suspects that these arms ultimately find their lodgement in the armouries of the Afghani/Pakistani Taliban which leads to the acceleration of Taliban attacks on Afghan government forces and thus increases their potential for derailing the elected government in Kabul. The Biden administration has reversed Trump’s decision of withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan. It will not allow the democratic process in Afghanistan to be undermined. It is a forceful warning to Pakistan also that the US will not tolerate clandestine cross-border infiltration.

Kashmir is closely linked to the strategic scenario unfolding in the Pak-Afghan region with ramifications reaching as far as Riyadh, where an influential Kashmiri Sunni Muslim lobby is adroitly positioned. Knowledgeable sources have revealed that in the recent conference of Afghan Taliban and Pakistani leaders in Islamabad, the setting up of a Kashmir – centric Afghan Taliban base force was also discussed on the sidelines. Biden administration has raised an eyebrow at the so-called peace agreement signed in Doha. Biden has criticised it.

Most notable is the reaction of the State Department on ceasefire along the LoC in Kashmir. Talking to reporters, its spokesman Ned Price said, “Obviously, Pakistan has an important role to play when it comes to Afghanistan and what takes place across its other border. So clearly we will be paying close attention, and we urge the Pakistanis to play a constructive role in all of these areas of mutual interest, including in Afghanistan, including with Kashmir, including with our other shared interests,”. Without specifying any action the US intends to take, Mr Price succinctly articulated that “the general U.S. position is a reduction in tensions and a condemnation of cross-border terror as well as a dialogue on Kashmir and other issues”.

Without over-emphasising the preliminaries of the ceasefire process we think the mediators and negotiators have been seriously engaged in discussing and analysing the possibility and range of resolving the festering sore of Kashmir. The fundamental inferences one can deduce from these discussions appear to be
(a) To ensure peace in the region, Pakistan must completely reverse its ideology of raising and exporting religion-based extremism or extremist elements and tools across its borders east and west
(b) Pakistan’s dubious role in Afghanistan is hindrance to regional peace.
(c) India and Pakistan both must take the people of their respective parts of J&K on board.

Grant of a larger measure of autonomy for a specific number of years to each part of the State might have been in the mind of interlocutors. However, it is somewhat difficult to articulate precisely on that aspect of the parleys. But India certainly holds the trump card. The question is will she use it and how best. That trump card is the five lakh internally displaced people from Kashmir Valley where ethnic cleansing and genocide have taken place in 1990.
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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