Ceasefire: Will it turn 10?

Published Aug 12, 2013 02:29pm

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did the right thing when he expressed “sadness” at the recent “incidents” along the Line of Control (LoC). He said it was imperative for India and Pakistan to take effective steps to “ensure and restore” the ceasefire along the LoC.

As India reels from the deaths of five soldiers in the Poonch sector on August 6, questions are being raised on how the incident could have happened at the highest levels of the army and civilian leadership.

While India blamed the Pakistani army for the deaths, Pakistan denied that its troops were responsible.

After the guns fell silent on November 25, 2003, following a choreographed ceasefire, Indians and Pakistani civilians living on either side of the LoC could go about living their lives normally for the first time in decades.

The 2003 ceasefire was a result of prolonged back channel negotiations between the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government and the administration headed by General Pervez Musharraf. A question mark hangs over the longevity of the ceasefire agreement, which will soon complete 10 years.

After having scuppered the Lahore process when Nawaz Sharif was Prime Minister, Musharraf and Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee put in place the first-ever comprehensive ceasefire agreement between the two countries.

To me, the moral of the story is that India-Pakistan relations “work” when there is a buy-in from Rawalpindi, or better still, Rawalpindi is running the affairs of Pakistan.

In November 2008, when the Mumbai attacks cut through the edifice of bilateral relations, Asif Ali Zardari had just been elected President of Pakistan and a civilian government had announced its desire to have the best possible relations with India.

Ashfaq Kayani, who succeeded Pervez Musharraf in November 2007, didn’t share his predecessor’s views on improving relations with India. Under his watch, India-Pakistan relations haven’t made much headway at all.

The challenges for Nawaz Sharif in his third time as Prime Minister are apparent. Having been packed off twice by the Army, Sharif must remain wary about the powers-that-be in Rawalpindi especially when it comes to implementing his stated policy of improving relations with India.

The Pakistani leader must also be aware of the implications of the Eid message of Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, who openly called for a jihad to be waged not just in Kashmir, but in Burma (Myanmar) and Palestine.

That Saeed was allowed to lead prayers inside the Gaddafi Stadium is the worst possible message that Pakistan could send out at this juncture. This is bound to raise questions about the new civilian government’s intentions of curbing jihadi elements.

In a recent opinion piece, military analyst Ayesha Siddiqa wrote, “We also know that there is sufficient infiltration of jihadi networks in the police department and security establishment. There are senior police officers in Punjab (serving and retired) who go around fixing appointments for Hafiz Saeed and other militant leaders.”

These are pretty scary words.

And, seen along with the ongoing terrorist attacks in Pakistan, including the latest in Quetta, this raises serious questions about the Pakistani State’s desire to deal with terrorist violence.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who even staked his government to strike a civil nuclear deal with the United States, needs to show some spunk when it comes to dealing with Pakistan.

Rather than allow the BJP, large bits of which remain ideologically opposed to Pakistan’s creation, to hijack the bilateral agenda, Dr. Singh needs to show leadership in dealing with Pakistan.

He’s allowed India’s Pakistan policy to drift and recent demonstrations by Youth Congress workers in Delhi only go to show that the ruling party is not averse to playing crass notes to a narrow jingoist constituency.

The fact is that whatever Dr. Singh does with Pakistan, the BJP and large sections of the Indian media will attack him.

So, why not then show some leadership and engage the new leadership in Pakistan, which should include the country’s army brass in some form or the other, in a serious dialogue about each other’s concerns?

While India wasn’t an issue in the recent Pakistan elections, Pakistan certainly will be an issue in the Indian elections if the BJP has its way.

Dialogue is not about speaking Punjabi, eating khurchan or even shaking hands. Dialogue is about engaging the other party in serious discussions on areas of difference in the hope of crafting acceptable agreements.

Had India and Pakistan built on the 2003 agreement by putting in place robust mechanisms to deal with violations rather than indulging in a cat-and-mouse game along the LoC, the ceasefire would not have been in danger.

For this, a quality dialogue between the Indian and Pakistani armies, supervised and led by the civilian leaderships, must happen.

Lack of incremental progress in India-Pakistan relations only leads to one thing – a reverse slide.


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Amit Baruah is an independent, Delhi-based journalist. He is the author of Dateline Islamabad and reported for The Hindu newspaper from Pakistan. He tweets @abaruah64.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (15) (Closed)


Ghalib Khan
Aug 12, 2013 02:37pm

Well I do agree with you that sincere efforts may be needed, But what i fail to understand is why is that whenever Pak Army starts some kind of operation against terrorist some issue with India always surfaces which again diverts Army attention to the borders with India is this just a coincidence or something more, with recent information surfacing on Indian Govt involvement in Mumbai and Delhi Attacks, it does make the whole affair very fishy indeed.

Sonal
Aug 12, 2013 09:26pm

On the whole, if we look at the success rate of these

Ash
Aug 12, 2013 11:24pm

Amit Baruah, you are playing to the galleries for long time as food on your table comes from Pakistan. Most of the Indians does not want India to talk to Pakistan (and it may be possible that most of the Pakistanis also do not want to talk to India) and actually do not want anything to do with Pakistan. Most Indians want to stop trade with Pakistan and do not want Pakistani players or actors come to India. Indians are tired of Pakistan (as this country (Pakistan) just does not want to grow and going backward unfortunately) and Indians are more concerned about the growth of the country. It is unfortunate that India has got very bad leadership at the moment.

Md Imran
Aug 13, 2013 01:52am

Mr.Amit Baruah, nobody here in Pakistan is interested in your "Aman ki asha", so please keep it to yourself. We are not interested in any of the so-called "peace talks" with Delhi, nor with your beloved PM. We are tired of India's offers of trade, peace, electricity, etc etc when India finds itself on the backfoot. Some of the Indian posters here never shy from saying " we are brothers ", "two rivers flowing parallely", "common ancestory,culture" etc. Please ! We are not the same as you, we neither share the same ancestory nor the same inspirations as you do. So keep your peace talk and bhai-chara to yourself..

Mathew George
Aug 13, 2013 02:04am

Even Nawas Sheriff want peace with India but Pakistan Military don't like this . After Independence Pakistan is ruled by Military . Military want show the public that we are against Indian military and protecting whole the Country from Indian military , Dear pak brothers you are digging your own grave because Taliban is acting in the Name of Allah and daily nearly 100 peoples are going to Heaven by Taliban . I am afraid to say what is going to happened to pak in next ten years . Use your brain pls . Pak military betrayed Americans as well . How much you earn and used that money against India . Even Saudi also don't believe even though you are a Islamic country cos they know what is the sincerity. .

Fazal Karim
Aug 13, 2013 05:27am

Mr Amit Baruah keeps eye on India Pakistan politics and a great supporter of friedly relations between the two countries. He is requested to throw some light on abrupt suspension of agreement between the two countries to issue visas to senior citizens of two countries at the border. As a good will gesture the implimentation of agreement will certainly reduce tension between the two countries.

Ravi
Aug 13, 2013 10:38am

@Ghalib Khan: Oh please, with all due respect, it is non sense. Can you enlighten us more with the story on Indian govt involvement in Mumbai attacks? Don't spread false propaganda. Do not let everyone say Pakistan lives on conspiracy theories.

Sonal
Aug 13, 2013 11:37am

On the whole, if we look at the success rate of these

Vineeth
Aug 13, 2013 03:08pm

@Md Imran:

Believe it or not, from the comments in newspapers there are more than enough people like you on the other side of the border too. Its just a handful of level-headed people on either side of the border who realize the bitter truth that India and Pakistan are condemned to be neighbours, and have to figure out a way to co-exist despite all the disputes and mutual-hate.

Sleepy
Aug 13, 2013 03:38pm

@Md Imran: Many Pakistanis actually do share the same ancestry as Indian people. However, I do agree with you. Pakistan must attain some self respect. They say that the common man of India and Pakistan want peace but I have met several Indian "common men" who have nothing but arrogance to portray. India was never interested in peace process, its just our politicians who belittle us.

Sleepy
Aug 13, 2013 03:40pm

@Ash: Voila, I am a Pakistani and couldn't agree more with you. Above the Congress Party, it is Pakistan that needs to understand that India and its people are not interested in 'Aman ki Asha'.

Sleepy
Aug 13, 2013 03:44pm

Let Pakistan deal with its electricity shortages + bizarre security situation and let India deal with its rape problem and economic growth. Because lets be honest, they both are too immature to attain peace and its a far fetched fantasy. Maybe in an idealistic world where both countries are MEDCs like France and Germany, maybe then it will be possible.

Musala
Aug 13, 2013 03:49pm

@Md Imran: When did you become the spokesperson for all Pakistanis?

Baron
Aug 13, 2013 05:19pm

Some information presented as facts is distorted and so far from truth that one has to wonder about the sort of biases and filters affecting the writer's thought process

saira
Aug 15, 2013 10:45am

I hope sir Amit Baruah read all the comments and now know the emotions of both sides "aam awam" and you have issue with our Army to have some hold on the talks with India I think you should also cut off BJP and all almost terrorism supporting political parties of India.

You mention Hafiz Saeed so just you know his whole madrassa line is banned in Pakistan not like in India where BJP or others who threaten Pakistan and attack Pakistan consulate are considered as a part of government Hafiz Saeed is not a part of our government.

Next you mentioned about infiltration of Jihadi networks in our Police and Army i think you also have same issue and if you deny that you should read all the facts about the "aman ki asha" train incident in India and latest "aman ki asha" bus incident in India.

I know i did the same thing you did but i just want to prove my point that both countries have issues it will be good that you don't put all blame on Pakistan in times like these. We don't need a war we want peace and it will work if we sort out the issues we have in our owns before blaming the others.