By Agha Iqrar Haroon
One of the most promising news that came from South Asia last month was military-level talks between archrivals India and Pakistan for reestablishing normalcy at their conflict zone—The Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan at Indian occupied Kashmir Valley.
The statement issued on February 25, indicated that the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of Pakistan and India held discussions over the established mechanism of hotline contact. The two sides reviewed the situation along the Line of Control (LoC) and all other sectors in a free, frank, and cordial atmosphere.
“In the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace, the two DGMOs agreed to address each other’s core issues/concerns which have the propensity to disturb the peace and lead to violence. Both sides agreed for strict observance of all agreements, understandings, and cease firing along the LoC and all other sectors with effect from midnight 24/25 February 21,” concluded the statement issued by the military spokesmen of both the countries.
This statement came after four-years of consecutive and constant violations of international norms by the Indian army with over 5,000 reported border violations during the last four years. This statement also came after two years when the Indian Air Force violated international borders and tried to do an airstrike inside Pakistan at Jabba— Balakot—a town of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. On February 26, 2019, India violated Pakistani airspace and conducted an airstrike inside Pakistan. On February 27, India again tried to violate Pakistani airspace and this time Pakistan Air Force swiftly responded and shot down two Indian fighter jets and captured an Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.
Since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi came in power first time in 2014, the Indian Army kept Pakistan engaged at borders but the situation became volatile a year before the 2019 Indian elections and the civilian population of Kashmir had been under the target of Indian medium to long-range bombardment.
Pakistan had been offering peace and normalization at borders but all such initiatives of Pakistan met further aggressive responses of the Indian government in past. Now both sides restated that existing, mechanisms of hotline contact and border flag meetings will be utilized to resolve any unforeseen situation or misunderstanding.
Interestingly on February 20, 2021, India also initiated talks to normalize border issues with China although India had a two-year-long standoff with China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and a war-like situation was buildup by India last year at the Ladakh region.
What has compelled India to fix situations and sit with China and Pakistan to normalize the situation at hot borders? Is it not a question indeed?
India and China at the 10th Corps Commander talks agreed to push for a mutually acceptable solution of remaining border issues and the two sides agreed to follow the important consensus of their state leaders, continue their communication and dialogue, stabilise and control the situation on the ground, push for a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues in a steady and orderly manner, so as to jointly maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
A statement issued by the Indian Army says:
“The Corps Commanders had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on other issues along the LAC in the Western Sector and the two sides positively appraised the “smooth completion” of disengagement of frontline troops in the Pangong Lake area”.
Indian Army faced eight months of humiliation at LAC and lost over 100 plus soldiers and officers including two Brigadier Generals, several Colonels, captains and junior officers. Is it true that after a humiliating withdrawal from LAC, the hawkish attitude of India is fading out?
There can be several reasons for a new phase of Indian negotiations with Pakistan and China. Such reasons may include the following factors:
- India realises that it can not achieve its target at LoC and LAC
- It had already achieved its calculated goals by establishing Indian Occupied Kashmir as Union State and already got US, EU and NATO allies’ approval on this new status of disputed Kashmir
- The new US team in the White House comprising of Indian Americans have sent a message to the Modi government to behave with sanity, respect international norms, reestablish eroded democracy, establish rule of law in the country, respect Human Rights because it would be difficult for Indian Americans to support India within Congress where Indian Human Rights issues are under scrutiny unless India makes its house in order.
- BJP government has already attained domestic goals and now has become unshaken and exceptionally strong therefore it does not need further adventurisms.
- There is a possibility Modi government has planned to do something big against farmers and opponents after facing stiff resistance from labourers, farmers and the working class. There can be possibilities of use of force in Indian Punjab again so India wants to fix international issues and concentrate on domestic purge.
In his book “The Politics of Risking Peace: Do Hawks and Doves Deliver The Olive Branch?” Kenneth A Schultz says that sometimes domestic demands design Foreign Policies of some governments particularly if the government is engaged in domestic political competition with an opposition party that had been in power before and is known to have friendly relations towards neighbouring countries with a history of wars.
Indian decision to normalize neighbouring borders indicates that despite possessing overwhelming military superiority over Pakistan, India has failed to coerce Islamabad with the threat of force
BJP government has always been Hawkish with neighbouring countries including Nepal, Bangladesh, China and Pakistan and such policy favoured BJP in domestic politics.
So one can say that in adventurism, India might achieve to complicate the Kashmir issue but has lost the credibility that the Indian threat is credible
Fortunately, Nuclear-loaded South Asia averted several misadventures perpetuated by the Modi-Shah-Doval troika due to sane responses from neighbouring China, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan to prevent and avert any designed-war by Indian hawks. Indian army, corporate media and BJP politicians had been busy to fire-brand actions at Line of Actual Control (LAC), Line of Control (LoC) and India-Nepal Border but failed to get results of waging short-terms and controlled-wars planned by the Modi-Shah-Doval troika.
In the world of diplomacy, Henry Kissinger observes, a loaded gun is more potent than a legal brief or even speech.
A larger number of former Indian diplomats and military experts openly express their viewpoints stating that the Indian decision to normalize neighbouring borders indicates that despite possessing overwhelming military superiority over Pakistan, India has failed to coerce Islamabad with the threat of force. While China’s military supremacy over India is too big and India cannot sustain a policy of coercion towards China because successful coercion must-have factors that include relative menace, credibility, consistency, and the cumulative factor.
So one can say that in adventurism, India might achieve to complicate the Kashmir issue but has lost the credibility that the Indian threat is credible and it will remain consistent in its demands and assurances. The cumulative factor transcends individual scenarios, affecting India’s reputation and influencing future adversaries to either resist or acquiesce.
“Peace is not made with friends; peace is made with enemies”
Regional experts believe that it is now clear that Indian’s hawkish policy was short-term, isolated reactions that undermine its perceived reputation for coercion. Although military force is the most responsive and visible instrument of power possess by any country, using threats for marginal interests inevitably leads to fighting conflicts over those same marginal interests. If an issue is not worth fighting a war, we must not threaten force in the first place.
The hawkish boldness of Modi was also a kind of Diplomacy but failed miserably. In the world of diplomacy, Henry Kissinger observes, a loaded gun is more potent than a legal brief or even speech.
Trading peace with neighbours is another kind of Diplomacy that Modi has decided to opt for after facing failures in the hawkish mode of Diplomacy. I remember the famous phrase of Israeli politician and Prime Minister Yetzhaz Robin who said in 1993 that “Peace is not made with friends; peace is made with enemies”.
I believe that phase of the “Warrior Diplomacy” of India is receding now and Indian Prime Minister Modi will replace his persona from a fire-brand Kartikeya to a Peace-Loving Vishnu.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.