Did India's surgical strikes escalate ceasefire violations with Pakistan?
Drawing conclusions from statistical figures may be incorrect.
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A report in The Indian Express on Monday stated that firing across the LoC has escalated since the launch of surgical strikes. The report went on to state that the present policy of “massive retaliation” for cross-border firing, set in place in 2014, with the coming in of the present government, is failing to deter the Pakistani army.
It bases its deduction on figures released by the J&K government, which state that 79 incidents of cross LoC firing were reported in 2012, 236 in 2013, 226 in 2014, 279 in 2015, 227 in 2016 and 127 up to June 21 this year. It also states that up till the surgical strikes in 2016, there were only five incidents south of the Pir Panjal, the rest post the strike.
A further analysis in the report mentions “localised but lethal skirmishes now form the core of a grim war of attrition on the border in Jammu, a region with near zero jihadist infiltration”.
The article also highlights that this action is because soldiers seek to avenge past attacks or to establish tactical advantage over the other. The region south of the Pir Panjal ridge always had lesser firing, as compared to the north, however, the surgical strikes, beheadings and resultant counter-actions were in this region.
Basically, it is incorrect and hasty to draw deductions solely on statistical data, especially where heavy or small arms firing have the same count.
Firing may on occasions be light with just small arms, seeking to deter villagers from attending to their fields or impose caution, or heavy including use of mortars to support movement of militants or to counter an earlier fire assault.
Pakistan is seeking to shift attention from the Valley to the Jammu sector, mainly the Rajouri, Poonch and Noushera areas. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, with multiple anti-infiltration measures adopted in Kashmir, most infiltration attempts have failed or infiltrated militants eliminated near the borders.
Infiltration routes are well known and troops are prepared. Thus, by opening this area there are multiple options for infiltrated militants to either proceed north or south or into the interiors, including Doda.
Secondly, Pakistan remained satisfied for a prolonged time as militancy in the Valley was active but at a muted pace. It aimed at keeping militancy continuing at a level below the Indian threshold of tolerance. It even orchestrated militant strikes on Army camps beyond the Valley. Strikes outside the Valley were curtailed post the surgical strike, however support to militancy continued.
Post the encounter killing of Burhan Wani and a violent summer, hopes arose of it achieving its goal of annexing the Valley, provided it increased the tempo. It was this that increased ceasefire violations of recent times as infiltration attempts were on the rise.
The foreseeable future is unlikely to witness any change in violations. Photo: Reuters
With an increase in local militants in the Valley, post the violent summer, Pakistan changed its strategy and aimed at reviving militancy south of the Pir Panjal, an action violently contested by India. This has altered the generally quiet status quo of the region and enhanced the tempo of violations.
Fourthly, the above is linked to the existing demography in the hill sector south of the Pir Panjal. It is delicately balanced and major militant actions could result in a change, which would be unacceptable to India.
Presently, militancy in the area is controlled and the Army would never permit it to revert to its earlier status of the nineties, where it required major actions to eliminate it. Hence any attempts at infiltration in this region are responded back in full vigour, with India targeting multiple posts, conveying a strong message.
In an open border, where both sides have dominating posts in areas, for every response, there is a counter response, solely because each side seeks to maintain tactical advantage. Firing once it commences, becomes a norm for both.
India has adopted a strategy of violating the ceasefire whenever there are infiltration attempts, because it seeks to apply pressure to dissuade it. It has on occasions resorted to destruction of posts responsible for attempted infiltration. As per government reports, successful infiltration attempts have been only 19 per cent this year, as compared to previous years, when it was much higher.
No policy including “avoiding violating ceasefire” or its opposite of “massive retaliation” can guarantee peace along the LoC. The LoC is such that any nation can violate ceasefire at will and blame the other for the same.
While India desists from targeting civilian population, unless Pakistan does it first, they remain vulnerable on both sides. The type of weapon employed and nature of ammunition depends on who commences the firing. Calling of counsellor staff and handing over protests notes is a diplomatic norm, which has never reduced exchange of fire.
The foreseeable future is unlikely to witness any change, however as the Indian Army regains control, which it has begun and eliminates militants in the Valley, desperation would begin to seep into the Pakistani deep state.
With the Hurriyat likely to be incarcerated by the NIA for its hawala transactions, violence would reduce as money to support it dries up, further infuriating the deep state. It is likely that in desperation, Pakistan would attempt to enhance infiltration or resort to striking at military targets beyond the Valley. Any such action would enhance ceasefire violations and cross-border strikes.
Hence, drawing conclusions from statistical figures may be incorrect. It would be more prudent to draw conclusions based on the changing environment and Pakistan’s varying perceptions based on violence in the Valley, rather than counting the number of ceasefire violations.
Levels and quantum of ceasefire violations would vary based on Pakistani intent and Indian counter actions, as India always seeks peace along its borders.