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India-Pakistan ping-pong

Published Jan 14, 2013 08:46am


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In times of tension, the general approach is to think of strategies to make the “other side” feel the pinch. If you are smarting from a reverse, soldiers think of getting even.

We, who inhabit India and Pakistan, are more than conversant with such scenarios. They have been part and parcel of our lives since the emergence of two independent nations in 1947.

In the last week, India and Pakistan have exchanged fire across the Line of Control (LoC), with Delhi asserting that two of its soldiers were killed and their bodies mutilated on January 8, a charge that Islamabad has denied.

On January 7, Indian Deputy High Commissioner Gopal Baglay was called to the Pakistan Foreign Office, where he was told of an unprovoked attack by Indian troops in the Hajipir sector on January 6.

Again, on January 11, the Pakistani side stated that one soldier was killed in unprovoked Indian firing.  This, and other incidents of firing, went against the spirit of the India-Pakistan peace process, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani told Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal.

On January 12, Indian air chief N.A.K. Browne said Delhi might have to look at other options in the wake of Pakistani violations of the LoC.

Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, however, said in an interview on the same day: “We think this will pass. We think we have enough agreements in place between the Pakistanis and ourselves to counter these issues ... the mutilation and the beheading that took place is tragic ...”

Earlier, Pakistani Foreign Minister ruled out a Pakistani hand in the killing of two Indian soldiers on January 8 and offered a third-party inquiry into the incident.

Any impartial observer would note that there’s a context to the claims of ceasefire violations by the two sides, and it’s always the “other party” to blame.

Both The Hindu newspaper and DNA reported their own versions of what might have led to the current clashes – giving a background of the recent tensions.

As this blog is written on Sunday, at least one news agency is reporting that there will be a flag meeting between the Indian and Pakistani sides on Monday at 1 pm Indian time.

There’s little doubt that India and Pakistan are up to their old games along the LoC – the circumstances may be disputed, but the fact that soldiers are being killed is clear.

After a futile limited war in Kargil, India and Pakistan had shown great, good sense to put in place what can only be called a “sudden” ceasefire in November 2003.

Without getting into too many details here, let me just say that the ceasefire happened in three days in November 2003, driven by a solid back-channel between India and Pakistan.

This was an event of exemplary importance and has no doubt saved countless lives of Indian and Pakistani soldiers and allowed civilians on both sides of the LoC to lead fairly normal lives.

Largely, this ceasefire has held. Cross-LoC trade and bus services have also added to the confidence that India and Pakistan wanted to move on from old adversarial POSITIONS.

Nothing significant has been added on to the ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan since 2003 as to how their differences are to be sorted out.

After showing dramatic political will then, India and Pakistan have done next to nothing in the last 10 years towards putting in place a structure that would lead to greater conversation among local-level military commanders and ensure that firing is history.

The Indians will tell you about their fear that the Pakistani army is still “pushing” jihadis across the LoC, a charge that Rawalpindi will definitely deny.

But these are excuses. The real problem is that there is no political will in Delhi and Islamabad to take the next steps to make the peace process genuinely irreversible.

I am not one of those who share the view of impending war, but believe that television hawks in India have had a field day demanding “more” from their government.

In sectors along the LoC and international border, where both sides feel secure, should not there be a move to move troops back from eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation?

Yet again, if the two sides had been able to come to an agreement on demilitarising Siachen, there would have been a positive, cascading effect all along the LoC and the international border.

It’s becoming clear that a military-to-military dialogue is essential if the quantum of trust along the LoC and in other areas between the two nuclear neighbours is to be enhanced.

In India-Pakistan relations, the status quo has a tendency to deteriorate. We have seen this time and again.

Ironically, India and Pakistan met in end-December 2012 to discuss conventional confidence-building measures, but nothing much came out of the meeting.

Other than those who live in hawkish paradise, history tells us that altering the status quo along the LoC is a pipe-dream, something that Pervez Musharraf hopefully understood after Kargil in 1999.

So, if we understand that, why not take the next steps in trying to demilitarise the frontier?

Or do we have to do some mind-demilitarisation first?


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


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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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 writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (56) Closed

farhaz Jan 15, 2013 03:11pm
To Dear Dawn Team.... Stop publishing ping-pong articles from a ping-pong author's desk....! We expect something that much much more than just reporting....we expect professional journalism.
Rizvi Jan 15, 2013 03:19pm
I am an Indian, this is not quite true at least about the political class... although you are more or less right about our military
farhaz Jan 15, 2013 03:01pm
I can understand your feelings Kumaresh...but stop living in an imaginary world...stop writing fairy tails...and face the harsh reality...! Unless you do that....we will not be able to find a solution to the problem !
farhaz Jan 15, 2013 02:50pm
That is because Mr Amit Baruah is writing for Dawn...He is just trying to appease the readers...!
Tony Jan 14, 2013 07:03pm
Amit Baruah, stop being anti-Indian. Every article of yours, nowadays smells of anti-Indianism. Intruding about 600 meters into the Indian side of LOC, hiding in bushes taking advantage of thick fog and forest, ambushing from behind with an overwhelming numbers, killing two Indian soldiers who were way ahead of their patrolling colleagues, mutilating their bodies and taking away the head of one Indian soldier as a trophy with it a game of ping-pong for you? What a shameless assertion?
Sam Jan 15, 2013 02:27pm
well said mate..
Stranger Jan 15, 2013 01:30pm
Why would pak behead Indian soldiers? If Pak did not do it , then who?I think some 3rd party is involved?
RAJU Jan 15, 2013 11:45am
Moral of the Story............... No trade between two Countires........ Who will suffer? why not we think postiive............ We have to think proactive and play safe games for our future... Future our New Generation. Try to give them positive ways to live in this global village rather the suffer from any infection.
Nina-Indian Jan 15, 2013 12:01pm
Kumaresh, read the comment by S. Qureshi above your comment then you will get a perspective.
Ghongha Jan 15, 2013 12:15pm
As long as the Pakistani generals cannot forget that they lost the war in 1971, there will be no peace. I truely believe that this event, which they see as a humiliation, is inspiring and triggering them. They told the common Pakistani soldier that he's worth 3 Indian soldiers and when this appeared to be wrong, their self-esteem really took a dig. Musharraf is a big exponent of such a general. His sole drive has been to prove that Pakistani army can win from Indian army. And he risked a lot to prove that, like the Kargil war. And since no results are achieved in direct fighting, they collaborate with extremists to punish Indians. Many Pakistani generals have admitted in public that they still feel angry about the loss in 1971 and the independence of Bangladesh.
vastav Jan 14, 2013 05:35pm
Only solution to the problem is Military to Military contact or cooperation to eliminate trust deficit between the two military,so that their is no blame game.
Shubs Jan 15, 2013 09:20am
Perhaps you consider the sorry history of military coups in Pakistan to be the benchmark for military behavior in all countries around the globe. It may surprise you to know that the citizens of India have never felt the need for being skeptical about the intentions or moral compass of their armed forces. Like most other democracies around the world, the relationship is based on trust and transparency.
Rajiv Jan 15, 2013 04:43am
The only solution is that Pakistani army should come under its elected civilian government .
arun Jan 14, 2013 12:23pm
vjjjjjjjjjjj Jan 14, 2013 05:27pm
Looks like Amit Baruah is afraid to write facts.
Ajay Jan 15, 2013 03:28am
Amit You are a biased person.You ar ewritting is blog only for again from pakistan. A shamefull act by you.
Satya Jan 15, 2013 03:27am
Thank god. At least someone is talking sense. I don't know what people think of war!! For them it's like hollywood movie but in reality its such a tragedy for so many people. All those who supporting tension n war never lost anybody in war.Peace... Peace...Peace
Shubs Jan 14, 2013 05:23pm
The fact is that this author has taken the most extreme and shrill news channel on the air and turned that into a metaphor for the Indian media. And what has he got as independent proof of the "Indian media's" belligerence? A newspaper report in Indian Express critisizing the shrillness of Times Now, the television channel of its arch rival, The Times of India. What Mr Baruah conveniently did not mention are the countless mature discussions on Indian television around this barbarism on the border - the facts, the opinions, the strategies, the timing of it, what Pakistan hopes to achieve, and all this with opinions from Pakistani journalists, CNN-IBN journalists reporting out of Islamabad, and so on. The opinions of Mr Baruah aside, the people of India are thankful to the Indian media for highlighting the facts and the inner workings of the Pakistani state. If you really want to get a true picture of what the Indian intelligentsia thinks of this latest round of medieval Pakistani behavior, please look up M.J. Akbar's latest opinion piece in the Times of India, titled 'The habit of bending over backwards', published on 13-Jan-2013. And Mr Akbar, as you may already know from reading his regular columns on Dawn, is hardly, what the author derisively refers to as a 'hawk'.
RC Jan 14, 2013 10:53am
I wish your so called TV analyst understand this and take sincere measures to bring your nation out of a war hysteria against Pakistan, because Pakistan wants nothing to do against India and we don't need to as we are already dealing with something which is a great danger to both Pakistan as well as India. But having said that its true that India can never dictate Pakistan and no matter what your media says Pakistan don't care as we all know how much hater Indian media has spread over the years and it won't go away that easily.
rainbow Jan 14, 2013 04:38pm
SCore India 2.0 Pakistan 2.0 Pakistan has a net run rate lead 0.5 compare to Indian Run rate of 2.0 match continues....................
Majid Khan Jan 14, 2013 09:46am
What a biased person the writer is!!! He mentioned the death of two of his soldier before the incident which happened earlier and resulted in the martyrdom of one Pakistani soldier.
Siddharth Jan 15, 2013 03:40pm
The problem is the Pakistan Government follows one track with India and the Pakistani Army has its own agenda. Every time a civil government starts making headway with India the Pakistani Army derails happened in one hand the Lahore-Delhi Bus service was started and then Kargil happened. This time the Pak cricket team came to India after years...Hockey players came....and now this. I think India will have to engage the Pakistani military in a dialogue of sorts as nothing the civil government says or commits to will hold if the Pakistani Army disagrees. You have to understand that the Pakistani Army is surviving because of its India threat propaganda. If India & Pakistan resolve their disputes then the role of the Army in Pakistan will dwindle drastically...which they don't want. I believe they too dont want a full scale war as that will expose them completely but they just want to keep the threat alive....keep simmering the situation and not inflame it. A revolution is needed in Pakistan against the Army....keep them in the barracks and I assure you you will not never need them against us.
Arvind Jan 14, 2013 03:50pm
Mr. Amit Baruah like so many arm chair journalists on either side of the border is waxing eloquent in a meaningless diatribe that seems to say nothing. The issue here is the beheading, a new low on the Pakistani side. We all know that the Pakistani Army is heavily politicized, and has maintained the facade of plausible deniability, as a fig leaf for its terrorist operations. It has now shunned the garb of a professional uniformed force to directly work as a terrorist. The uniform does not stand for a legitimate Army it is a cover for being a terrorist.
MKB Jan 14, 2013 10:36am
Dear Amit, the right word is beheading & mutilation. It is a very shameful that being a Indian you do not like to stand -up for India. But atleast use the right vocabulary. Gen Bikram Singh rightly said that this ghastly barbaric act can not be pardoned.
sdsd Jan 14, 2013 11:41pm
Everyone here need to understand that peace take birth out of sword. you can't make people understand peace until they see war. And hawks can only understand when they bring to their knees. Pakistan Army has not learn any lesson from past & it will not understand it until it disarm from their false bravado.
S. Qureshi Jan 14, 2013 02:27pm
It is difficult to imagine peace with Pakistan unless the Pakistan Army works under the democratically elected government of Pakistan instead of dictating and destabilizing the successive governments. Moreover, the Pakistan army has a fear that if there will be a peace in India and Pakistan then it will not be able to loot billions of dollar of public money.
tahir Jan 14, 2013 10:48pm
Today I got stuck in a traffic jam. I had to come home urgently. I thought to inform my little brother about the traffic jam but couldn
amber Jan 14, 2013 10:46pm
We must have a Landline number in our homes. Because in emergency situations like suspension of mobile phone services , landline is the only way of communication. So guys keep your landline alive.
ahmed shaik Jan 15, 2013 01:40pm
One of them are culprit for sure...I am An Indian...But will say this may have done for some political gain....So what we have to analyse in future is..Who will gain from not having business between the 2 neighbors or by having a war!!!!! These politics are so dirty!!!!
Avishek Roy Jan 15, 2013 12:43pm
Very well observed..
KimJong-iil Jan 14, 2013 09:36pm
Sure there was agreement . Pak army generals and indian army generals agreed to keep the tensions high few weeeks before the budget, so that both countries will get increased budget for army when poor ppl stave in both countries .
sraz45 Jan 15, 2013 10:07am
Mr.Amit writes what is real, a good writer writes fact and it does not include patriotism. I agree with him that both countries have to use some other format to achieve real and long term peace and trust. It is time to do that otherwise the consequences are not going to be good.
SAY Jan 15, 2013 06:52am
Our army and political class has maintained a transparent relationship with its citizen at least in terms of external affairs till date. Thats why we would never ever think of questioning them back unlike the Pakistani counterparts.
Mahavir Jan 14, 2013 08:47pm
Mr. Faisal, Its on live TV, mother and wife of the soldier, whose head was cut off and taken away by Pak army, are on hunger strike demanding that the head be brought back till then they won't do the last rites. People of India are much wiser than you would like to believe.
Imran Jan 14, 2013 09:48am
Demilitarise the border !!! Are you naive to suggest that. Do you know the implications ? have ypu forgotten how Pak army has attacked kashmir in the past?
ZINDA BHAAG... Jan 15, 2013 01:49pm
Pakistan has violated and perhaps blocked all the way through which we could be able to solve all the issue.....
Tharik Jan 14, 2013 01:24pm
"But these are excuses" I dont question your intend but could have written it better. For people whose loved ones lives were lost in Mumbai and for people who are getting killed by bullets and grenade of terrorists, I do not think the it would be called an excuse.
sandip Jan 14, 2013 12:35pm
Issue is confidence in holding agreement. With politics in Pakistan being unstable and inflicting damage on India gives them power so its difficult to trust. If there is political stability on Pakistan side then we don't need any new agreement as current agreements provide enough ground for meaningful engagement.
Nasah (USA) Jan 14, 2013 03:32pm
The reality is that the Khakis on both sides of the divide are NOT fully aboard the oxen cart of the Pakistan India detente . They have not only poor civilian supervision from both sides -- at times it appears their border activities are even independent of their respective GHQs.
pkdesigns Jan 14, 2013 03:41pm
Agreement does not means,we are unable to grow ourselves!
nasirshah606 Jan 15, 2013 02:04pm
I think leaders and military of both countries never honestly tried for peace due to personel and political gains. On the other hand the big gaints like US, USSR and else are sucking money from both nations by arming them. Hypotheticaly if there is absolute peace in the region, then armies or both will shrink to army size of Canada, Switzerland , Oman etc. Now do you beleive that your generals would like to cut their size, never. Secondly leaders on both sides are held by ego, religious afiliation and regid political agenda of hostility agaist neighbour. These conflict on border will happen momentarily but will never flash into war because both knows that noone will win the war. It will be doom day for the region and they dont want it. Hope for the best.
Kumaresh Passoupathi Jan 14, 2013 02:05pm
There are bigger issues like poverty, over population, recession, and stuff that threaten our nations more. What a 22 year old south Indian like me finds it tough to understand is that, how could people who fought together against the English enslavement less than a century ago, develop so much hatred for each other. I can only imagine, that there are third parties involved, which would profit heavily from a war scenario between our nations. Two beautiful countries, that could dominate the world's economy, if not for the petty war issues - Saddest irony of history.
faisal Jan 14, 2013 02:00pm
Its amazing how educated people from India just keep consuming everything coming out of the press releases from their own armed forces instead be a little skeptic sometime. At least people in Pakistan have begun questioning the ISPR releases.
rich Jan 14, 2013 09:21am
it was more of reporting then an article expressing his views Richie
Nasah (USA) Jan 15, 2013 04:27pm
Every time Pakistan and India start to come together -- if it is not Hafiz Saeed it is the border patrol -- who knows may be they are the two names of the same entity.
Omar Jan 15, 2013 04:45pm
True Pakistanis have started questioning ISPR and that because of the situation Pakistan today is. I think we can not compare the two army's in terms of power the wield in their respective countries.
Mandeep Jan 15, 2013 04:59pm
India doesn't have GHQ the one you have in Pakistan. Indian military is under control of civilian Govt and never came even close of staging a coup. It has a say in matters related to military and strategic matters only. It does not run foriegn affairs, nor any civilian diginatories from other countries try to meet our generals. So please do not generalize and the 'khakis' on both sides are not same.
Joyforall Jan 15, 2013 06:03pm
Good for you. But, pray what is the relevance of that comment here?
Papa Jan 15, 2013 07:47pm
Dear did you forgot 1965 or what and by the way we already won what we wanted to won in 1947, we got the independent from you by taking your country and that is something which will keep bothering you. So what if Bangladesh got independence, they still is a Muslim country but we will never allow any Indian (non Muslim) flag in any of those countries. Now keep crying but go to the mirror and see it yourself who won the bigger picture and you will get the answer.
Papa Jan 15, 2013 07:51pm
Why don't you advise your government to involve the third party and see the outcome, is there something to hide?
Atheoi khan Jan 15, 2013 09:20pm
There is another aspect of all this. Whenever politicians start a process to improve things the military at either side starts feeling the discomfort as it
Hassan Jan 16, 2013 01:49am
The sad reality is that we still see being friends with each other as an option. We are so naive, There are so many examples in front of us. Certainly we have still not understood the truth about our own history, geography, culture and most importantly our genes. Seems like things will only change in this region when again a third party will come to do so.
Kulwant Singh Jan 16, 2013 05:33am
The poor people of both countries have no problem but the leaders, religious and political created all problems before partion Hindus,Sikhs and Muslimms were living peacefully and even now when any Muslim visits Panjab and goes to the village where he or his elders were born he is welcomed and the same is case when any Sikh or Hindu visits Pakistan.Secondly in armed forces of both the countries only common people joint the Army to earn his livelihood .
hitesh Jan 16, 2013 05:59am
Mr.Baruah lives in "fool's paradise" ! De-melitirzation of Siachin and LoC ! What a joke ! Then where does he want to put militry.
peri n. Jan 16, 2013 06:27am
Pakistan should learn to accept its msideamonrs.A few newclear weapons is no guarantee that its country does not face dismemberment.After all size and quantity.quality and efficiency matter in usage of modern weapons in todays war.Three wars and american weapons have failed to save pakistan at the hands of indians. Be realistic and know yr strenths and weaknesses for ventuirng into foolhardy excercises.
GangnamStyle Jan 16, 2013 08:25am
Until Pakistan considers Kashmir a disputed territory,these things will continue and many more soldiers will be killed on either side.