On Tuesday, for the second time in less than a month, Pakistani troops, apparently backing the terrorists trying to cross the Line of Control into the Kashmir Valley, beheaded an Indian soldier of the Rashtriya Rifles in the Machil area of Kupwara district in north Kashmir. The Indian Army has vowed “heavy retribution”. Whatever that may lead to, it is evident that the LoC has been live since the terrorist killing of Indian soldiers at Uri on September 18, 10 days after which India launched a “surgical strike” to deter LoC violations by terrorists backed by the Pakistan Army. It is plain, though, that the high-profile manoeuvre has had little desired effect, for LoC violations — the attempt to infiltrate militants into Kashmir — have become an almost everyday affair since then. The ceasefire agreement signed by Pakistan in December 2003 is also being observed almost entirely in the breach.
In recent weeks, Pakistan has been upping the ante. There could be three categories of reasons: to respond to India’s “surgical strike” so as not to appear timid, to pump in terrorists into the Valley before the winter snows set in, and lastly domestic Pakistani politics in which outgoing Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif, due to retire on November 29, stays put in view of the worsening military situation with India even though he has begun making farewell calls on his troops in different sectors. In case Gen. Sharif does actually go home on the appointed day (whatever the odds against that happening), it is to be seen if his successor persists with Pakistan’s current policy in relation to India and infiltration attempts into the Kashmir Valley.
Should India’s approach be guided by Pakistan’s military actions after November 29, by when it will be known if its present military chief will retire or get an extension, or should India seek to pursue a proactive policy by not only inflicting “heavy retribution” but also re-engaging the civilian leadership — in effect Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif? This, of course, also depends on Mr Sharif’s current status in Pakistan’s power dynamics, in which the Pakistani military has gained the upper hand.
These are among the questions our policy planners should be giving attention to. There is also the Balochistan factor which Prime Minister Narendra Modi articulated on Independence Day. The country has no knowledge if that vector has been activated, and if so if it is likely to have any impact in the short run on the situation in Kashmir.
We should also be concerned that uncertainties regarding Pakistan and the situation on the LoC may have prevented the government from taking any steps to defuse the tense situation in the Kashmir Valley....