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LoC tension: Failure of military leadership


The recent flare-up in tensions between India and Pakistan, following the killing of two soldiers, including the beheading of one, which was preceded by low-grade exchange of gunfire leading to ceasefire violations from both the sides, can be attributed to the failure of military leadership  of both sides in engaging in purposeful talks to 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 the countries, with political leaders from both sides playing to the galleries, using strong words against the each other.  

The incident specially helped the Pakistan military in improving its image within the domestic audience of Pakistan, which was seriously dented ever since the Abbottabad Operation took place in which Osama Bin Laden was killed by US Navy SEALs in 2011.

Eventually, the leadership realized that not much can be gained 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 started showing its colours as the much awaited travel policy for allowing visa-free entry of senior citizens was stalled by India. Also, the nine Pakistani hockey players, who were to take part in the Hockey India League tournament, were sent back.

The incident demonstrated yet again how vulnerable the two countries remain to slightest provocation. However, this was not for the first time that the ceasefire had been violated. There have been 72 incidents of ceasefire violations between the two countries in the past 13 months.

And this has continued with increasing frequency, in spite of field commanders of both the countries holding regular meetings and the Director General of Military Operations (DGMOs) from both sides being connected to each other through a hotline.

The problem lies in the fact that the communication between the military personnel from both sides is less frequent and most of the time fails to resolve the local-level tensions.

The recent atrocity was one such case, the culmination of a series 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 and grandchildren living across the LoC.

This led the Indian military to build observation bunkers in the region to monitor the movement of villagers. Tensions escalated and matters came to a head on in January with both countries exchanging gunfire, finally leading to January 8 incident.

This shows that the CBMs undertaken are not sufficient to maintain a state of calm. It helps little when the leadership in India talks about getting “10 heads for one” and “it cannot be business as usual” between the two sides, or the Pakistani counterpart accusing India of “warmongering” and educated Pakistani ruling class saying such incidents will continue unless the Kashmir issue is solved.

The ceasefire agreed to by both the nations in 2003 has been by far the most significant part of the peace process and had brought relief to the lives of the people living along both sides of the LoC.

But such CBMs have been violated time and again and have the potential to lead to dangerous consequences.

Winters are extremely harsh and inhospitable along the border area in the north and sometimes there may be a lax in guard, which can be taken advantage of by the military on the other side.

Indian military can increase its personnel during such conditions and enhance the deployment of technical means to aid its soldiers and enhance operational readiness.

These measures will help in enhancing security of the Indian borders, but in no way is it a comprehensible solution to the grave dangers posed by ceasefire violation.

Securing the ceasefire and keeping the peace process on track is something that the military leaders can achieve if local-level tensions are not given a chance to flare up by frequent and fruitful communication, and amicable solution.

The recent skirmish should not be allowed to escalate - this fact is something that the military and political leadership of both sides is slowly waking up to, for if it does not, such incidents will continue to flare up in future severely impairing the relations between the two countries.