The fraught relationship between India and Pakistan is witnessing a steady rise in border firing incidents, data culled from the Indian Parliament shows. The spurt in violence comes after a ceasefire that ensured peaceful borders for over ten years.
The sharpest escalation in border firing since the ceasefire began in 2010, which saw 39 incidents and then grew to 347 incidents in 2013.
Both India and Pakistan have held on to the ceasefire that began on November 25, 2003. In the preceding year, both countries had witnessed 2,644 incidents of firing. This was during Operation Parakram which was launched after attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, leading to a 13-month skirmish.
But after the ceasefire was declared, violence plunged and there wasn’t a single border incident between the two armies between 2004 and 2006. However, by 2010, that began to change.
Experts like Lt Gen PC Katoch, who commanded the Siachen brigade during the Kargil war, feel that the rise in violence reflects Pakistan’s growing internal troubles. “Pakistan is imploding so they have to divert attention. What is the point of talking with Pakistan right now?”
But others feel that keeping communication channels open is the key to managing the ceasefire. Srinath Raghavan, a lecturer on security studies at King’s College, London, feels that New Delhi’s decision to not seek flag meetings could have been avoided. “Drawing these red lines will only paint us into a corner and reduce our ability to manoeuvre.”
Rana Banerji who studied Pakistan for nearly 30 years as part of the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) agrees with Raghavan’s assessment. “In Pakistan, the army calls the shots. But if we encourage a military-to-military dialogue, it emphasises our view that as a democracy we will speak to the political establishment and restrict their army to only talks with our army.”
New Delhi is firm that it will not talk to Pakistan till the levels of violence come down. But the ceasefire has benefited both. “In Kashmir, it has led to reduced levels of militancy-related violence in the valley and a sharp fall in infiltration attempts,” says Raghavan. Clearly, peace has dividends for both countries.