Factors behind Border Clashes

The recent border clashes between India and Pakistan which started in the first week of October 2014 along the Line of Control (LoC) have not only been escalated but have also been extended to the working boundary. Many scholars believe that current clashes in terms of their nature and scope are different from the previous ones. The important thing that makes them different is the timing. First, these clashes started ahead of Indian State Elections. Second, Pakistan was facing a political crisis and its Armed Forces were gaining success in Zarb –e- Azb operation against the militants. Third Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif raised Kashmir issue at the September UNGA session due to India’s nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hard-line approach towards Kashmir as India cancelled the Foreign Secretary levels talks in August 2014 on the pretext that why the Pakistani High commissioner in New Delhi met with the Kashmiri leadership.

In terms of scope, recent border clashes have the potential to further escalate   as the fighting has already been extended towards the working boundaries of India and Pakistan. This time the artillery fire has been unusually intense, and shelling has hit border villages. The exchange of heavy artillery and machine-gun fire killed 30 civilian and tens of thousands of people were compelled to migrate.

These clashes are both a cause and a symptom of tensions between the two nuclear rivals in South Asia. The exact cause of the deadly exchanges has still not been determined. According to independent news sources, the confrontation was triggered by the explosion of an IED in the first week of October in the Balnoi sector in the Poonch district of Occupied Kashmir, claiming the life of an Indian soldier.

One of the important questions that come to mind is that who could be the Initiator of recent aggression? It is very difficult to say who initiated the recent aggression as even a small incident might have led to this situation in the prevailing tense environment between the two countries. This could also be a result of a misunderstanding that led to simultaneous action from both sides. Most of the analysts in Pakistan, however, believe India is the initiator. There could be different goals India might fulfill through these provocations and escalations.

First goal could be to malign Pakistan that it is supporting trans-border terrorism in Kashmir. Second India might want to divert attention of Pakistan Armed Forces from the operation Zarb-e-Azb as this operation is very successful and created peace and harmony in Pakistan. The terrorists especially Pakistani Taliban and other criminal elements acting as Indian proxy in Pakistan are on the run. Third, there were  General Elections in two states of India (Maharashtra and Haryana)  on 15 October 2014 (results to be announced on 19 October 2014).The Elections in Indian Occupied Kashmir are also due in November/December 2014.Normaly Indian governments use these escalations against Pakistan for point scoring in election campaign and getting sympathies of voters. Fourth, to India want to show Pakistan that Modi government is very assertive and did not like Pakistan’s efforts to raise Kashmir issue in the UN.

The most immediate provocation seems to have been Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s recent attempts to internationalize the Kashmir issue at the September UNGA session that India did not like. India’s unilateral rupturing of ties after the Pakistani High Commissioner’s meeting with Hurriyat leaders in August 2014 by canceling scheduled Foreign Secretary level talks showed marked shift from the Congress government’s policy of strategic restraint. This hardline shift under the incumbent BJP government permeates both the foreign office and the NSA office, and has been unwittingly reaffirmed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent trip to Washington, which included joint Indo-US statements against terrorist networks operating out of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The main objectives of Indian provocations and escalations with Pakistan include : a) to create problem of civil-military relations in Pakistan by propagating that Pakistan Army was sabotaging Nawaz’s overtures with India and  has been asserting  full control over the Pakistan’s  policy towards India ; b) to pressurize Pakistan not to pursue Kashmir issue at international level ;  c) India wants to repeal Article 370 to annex J &K through force and with such provocations are considered useful to avoid any dialogue with Pakistan ; d) to divert attention  from Indian   failure in providing relief and rehabilitation  to Kasmiri flood victims: e) get benefit from Pakistan’s domestic political instability ; e) three months successful operation of Zarb-e-Azb by Pakistan Army has upset the Indian plans in Pakistan. It was necessary to divert Pakistan’s Armed Forces attention to sabotage the operation that was contrary to Indian designs of destabilizing Pakistan; and f) to fulfill Modi’s promise of a more muscular foreign policy.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hard-line approach towards Pakistan certainly has the potential to escalate the conflict. Indian decision to cancel the foreign secretary talks with Pakistan was a great setback for diplomacy. Mr. Modi gave a very dangerous statement in reply to opposition criticism that he had not been vocal during the recent border crisis with Pakistan, while addressing an election campaign rally on October 9, 2014, what he stated is quoted here, “I don’t need to speak, our guns will do it”. It seems that India is not interested in reconciliation with Pakistan. Indian Defence Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley, warned that in case of any hostility with Pakistan, India has the capacity to inflict “unaffordable“price for Pakistan. Under Mr. Modi, Indian security forces are not likely to exercise any restraint. While his counterpart Khawaja Asif, Pakistan’s defense minister, stated that his country could respond “befittingly “to Indian actions on the border.

This kind of escalation provides an opportunity to pro-Kashmir militants in Pakistan to justify their struggle against India. India should understand that her policies in Indian Held Kashmir are the major cause of terrorism in India. There always remains a danger that such pro-Kashmiri groups could use the distraction of border clashes to carry out their activities. It’s possible that this latest fighting could die down soon. But given the shaky state of affairs between India and Pakistan, clashes could flare up again quickly—with destabilizing consequences for the world’s chief nuclear flash point. International Community should pursue India to resume dialogue with Pakistan and adopt a reconciliatory approach.

 

Published in Pakistan Observer on October 18, 2014.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.

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