WHILE recent events along the LoC remain shrouded in confusion and some degree of mystery, it has not stopped Pakistan and India from continuing their verbal sparring. Now Gen Kayani has responded directly to a public broadside delivered by the Indian army chief Gen Bikram Singh and at least the war of words shows no sign of abating. Perhaps most relevantly, the events along the LoC do not themselves seem to be snowballing into a wider and larger conflict in the Kashmir region. That central fact must not be lost sight of and both sides need to consider why and how the war of words is continuing in seeming disproportion to events on the ground. Consider the words of Gen Bikram Singh first. Not at all unusual and part of a trend in recent years of India’s military leadership speaking for itself, the problem has more or less been downplayed by the Indian political leadership. But it is very much a problem.
It is not something limited to Jammu and Kashmir, but the disputed region exemplifies the problem of the Indian military increasingly intervening in policy debates. Give any army or paramilitary force such a significant say in controlling an area and it will inevitably find ways to hang on to and expand its power and influence in that area. Here at home the examples of the Rangers in Karachi, the Frontier Corps in Balochistan and the army in Fata are too well known to bear repeating. Next door in Afghanistan, the US military has long fought for its view to dominate, even when the politicians in Washington began to understand there is no military solution to Afghanistan now. On the Indian side, it’s in Jammu and Kashmir where the Indian army has demonstrated the pernicious effects of giving a military force too much space in the political arena. From pressing for the continuation of controversial special laws to directly meddling in local politics to trying to shape the national discourse and policy on the Kashmir dispute in India, the army there has ventured far outside its original sphere.
Of course, what the Indian army appears to have learned later in its existence, the Pakistan Army has practised to devastating effect over the six decades of this country’s existence. Whether there is merit to his words or not, Gen Kayani is not the person who should be responding to political allegations. That is the job of the government here. The civil-military imbalance will never be corrected until the constitutional chain of command is adhered to.