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Skimpy ceasefire

Editorial |

With at least two major firing incidents in the Jammu sector since the Directors-General of Military Operations of the Pakistan and Indian armies called a truce on May 29 ~ followed by an interaction between sector commanders of the Pakistan Rangers and India’s Border Security Force ~ questions must arise over the utility of such agreements.

For every transgression of those understandings sparks off a verbal spat, counter-allegations of who “started it”, betrayal and so on. Which exacerbate rather than reduce tensions on one of the world’s hottest frontiers.

Obviously, each side projects its own version of the incident to its people, and that only makes the relationship more bitter. And while bellicose politicians thrive in adding fuel to fire, life has become a living hell for people residing in villages along the frontline. Both sides claim the other resorted to “unprovoked firing” which was given a “befitting response”, and so the vicious circle persists.

Forget the politics momentarily, do the DGMOs lack the capacity to ensure that their men ~ the paramilitary included ~ pay heed to decisions taken higher up the chain of command? That obvious inability points to deteriorating standards of leadership and training ~ all talk of a common heritage and traditions has long lost its relevance ~ which translates into the frontier becoming the proverbial “powder keg” that could explode after a seemingly trivial misunderstanding.

Jingoistic statements from across the political spectrum help nobody. If the two armies wish to keep things under control, the DGMOs need to use their hotline more, perhaps move towards setting up a joint-mechanism to keep the border relatively peaceful ~ if that is the intention. However, the covering-fire provided to infiltrating militants raises grave doubts about intentions.

Again provided the intentions are not dishonourable, the nitty-gritty of the “ceasefires” need mutual agreement. According to some reports, the latest incident in the Ramgarh sector in which four BSF personnel were killed was initiated by the Rangers firing at a BSF party moving stores to repair damaged fencing. Was that necessary at night, could it not raise suspicions? Even at the risk of being accused of being “anti-national”, is must be re-asserted that it takes two hands to clap.

Alas, the track-record of the Pakistani forces inspires little confidence. Yet for how long, and to what purpose, will pointing accusing fingers serve? Anything more positive than the customary ministerial “clashes” at international forums? Who apart from Indians and Pakistanis take note of such routine rhetoric? True, that the DGMOs cannot relieve the nations, or their armies, of the baggage of history.

Yet they can enhance the dignity of their office, and indeed their armies, if they strive to impart credibility to their statements. Their hotline has to be put to meaningful use ~ and not to emulate the politicians in trading insults.