“The life of the people living along the ceasefire line has been crippled by incessant shelling and firing. Not a single day goes by when there are no casualties in one or the other sector.”
Despite the adherence to the 2003 cease fire agreement by both India and Pakistan the Line of Control has witnessed worse artillery exchange and friction since the Hindu Nationalist leader Narendra Modi took charge in 2014. The year 2017 is marked as a year of worst artillery exchange leading to massive civilian loss. The LOC is a 450-mile-long military control line which was demarcated in July 1972, slicing the disputed princely state of Kashmir into Indian Occupied Kashmir and Azad Jammu Kashmir. The first Confidence Building Measure agreed between the two states to administer and monitor the matters pertaining to LoC came to be known as ‘Ceasefire agreement’.
The cease fire agreement signed on November 26, 2003 was a first successful CBM after the military stand of 2001-2002. The agreement was a step to restore a sense of security to the communities and security forces living along each side of LoC and to avoid chances of escalation between the two new nuclear powers.
The statistics issued by the foreign office of Pakistan and India speaks of the tit for tat dilemma where both sides respond belligerently to the violation by the other. The year 2018 is marked by a total of 335 ceasefire violations by India. Whereas India blames Pakistan for a total of 633 violations in the months of January and February. The unavailability of credible data on LOC violations has turned LOC more into a rolling stone between the military of Pakistan and India, where both sides indulge in blame game, but who is to be blamed in actual? Secondly, what should be the appropriate strategy to save the civilian population from the blind military exchange between the two borders. As according to the residents it is they who are paying the price of enmity between India and Pakistan either by sacrificing the lives of their loved ones or staying apart from their blood relations.
The ferocious exchange at LoC is not only the question mark on the credibility of 2003 cease fire agreement but also the UN efforts to resolve the conflict peacefully. The gross human violations as a result of this ferocious exchange or strategic miscalculation makes it more a subject of humanitarian law and international responsibility. Unrest at LoC not only poses a grave threat to human security but is directly threatening regional stability.As Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint between the two neighboring rivals, such violations and tensions make it difficult for matters to de-escalate especially in crisis situations.
Violence along the LoC does not occur in vacuum rather it reflects the general state of relations and the change in political mindset between India and Pakistan. For example, since the war hawkish regime of Modi which took charge in 2014, the political landscape changed for worse, as India is now found frequently using heavy weapons i.e. automatic weapons and heavy mortars on the LoC. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a long history of committing heinous crimes against humanity specifically Muslims. Here the paradox of normalcy arises, when local mobilisation compatible with a government’s rhetoric of normalization through liberal democracy clashes with the state’s preference for a political status-quo. Hence what needs to be addressed is the structural basis of failure which arises from the tensions between normalcy and the underlying political status-quo.
Unfortunately, the international relations today are driven more by strategic gains and interest which results in putting human rights and the right of self-determination movements at back burner. A prime example of this is US inclination towards its Indian counterpart, owing to its status as a rising economic power. It is the change in strategic and economic dimensions of the 21st century which encourages US to take India on board by strengthening strategic and economic alliances with them. This discriminatory attitude will keep the tensions alive between the two nuclear powers. Owing to India’s economic clout and significance in the world today, even the Trump administration has turned a blind eye to the human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir where Indian military force is openly atrocities against unarmed civilians of Kashmir valley
Both the states have resorted to a military solution for longest time. Both the governments and their top command authority have failed to assess the causes of violations and develop a proper framework for border management.It can be stated that the border tensions are a militaristic manifestation of a bigger problem in implementation of bilateral agreements and UN resolutions in true letter and spirit. Unfortunately, India and Pakistan has yet not agreed on a cease fire agreement in writing with the usual internationally recognized provisions. Moreover, the sanctity of old agreements has fallen at the back foot in the post-nuclear era. Although India is economically and militarily more stable. However, this economic and military lift encourages India to stretch its power hold by using brute force to quash popular display of political defiance in Kashmir, without being held accountable.
Indian dismissiveness in resolving Kashmir issue is evident from its forceful efforts to maintain political status-quo in the Kashmir region by denying access to United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan. Unlike India, Pakistan has welcomed the UN role and resolutions in finding a peaceful solution to the dispute. But it is New Delhi that is reluctant and believes that Kashmir is a bilateral issue with Islamabad. Keeping in view the aggressive policies of India, India’s campaign to distort Pakistan’s image globally by referring it to as a state sponsor of terrorism, Pakistan has made its stance clear that it won’t compromise any blow to its strategic interest and sovereignty. Moreover, Pakistan on its part has made it clear that a dialogue with India without Kashmir on the agenda is out of question.
No humanitarian organization or group can justify the illegitimate use of force employed by the Indian occupying forces against the unarmed Kashmiris. It is high time that the international community should come forward to break a stalemate between India and Pakistan and to bring them on dialogue table to decide in the collective good of the regions stability and prosperity. Moreover, both Pakistan and India need to summon the political will to safeguard and implement ceasefire agreement both in written and practical, without getting indulged into blame game. On the contrary if both sides remain at logger heads and the international community accepts the widening of the political, security and economic gaps between the two then regional security will remain a pipe dream.
The writer is Research Assistant at CISS.