New Delhi’s decision to call off India-Pakistan secretary level talks scheduled after a two-year break was conveyed by Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh to High Commissioner Abdul Basit on 19 August ’14, just minutes after he met the leader of J&K Democratic Freedom Party Shabir Shah, stating that the meeting “with these so called leaders of the Hurriyat undermines the constructive diplomatic engagement initiated by Prime Minister Modi in May on his very first day in office.” The government’s annoyance was conveyed in the statement: “The invitation to socalled leaders of the Hurriyat by Pakistan’s High Commissioner does indeed raise questions about Pakistan’s sincerity, and shows that its negative approaches and attempts to interfere in India’s internal affairs continue unabated… Under the present circumstances, it is felt that no useful purpose will be served by the Indian Foreign Secretary going to Islamabad next week.” Responding to India’s move to cancel talks the Pakistani Foreign Office stated that it was “ a setback to the efforts to promote good neighbourly relations with India”, and that the meeting with Kashmiri leaders was a “long-standing practice” prior to Pakistan-India talks. While past governments raised objections, but took no action when Pakistani diplomats and leaders met Kashmiri separatist leaders, this time Pak High Commission officials said that New Delhi’s decision had come as a “surprise”.
Meanwhile, Pak army/ rangers had been violating the ceasefire across both the International Boundary (IB) and the Line of Control (LoC) in J & K on a daily basis. While Indian villages along the IB in south J&K were targeted with mortars in addition to small arms, disrupting life and causing civilian casualties, Pak army’s pet terrorist groups Lashkar e Taiyyaba (LeT) and Jaish e Mohammad (JeM) launched attacks in the Valley. The tally of violations in August ’14 itself had crossed 100, exceeding the previous year’s figure. Defence Minister Arun Jaitley who toured forward areas of the LoC and international borders, criticised Pakistan for “deliberate ceasefire violations” and said, “Pakistan and ‘powers within’ it clearly do not want ties with India to be normal.” And yet again, Army discovered a cross border tunnel opening almost 50 meters inside India in Pallanwala sector of J&K. In fact, even during severe floods in J&K, LeT continued its attacks in the Valley.
The very next day after India’s refusal for talks- on 20 August ’14- the Pakistan High Commissioner, Abdul Basit came to the Foreign Correspondents Club in Delhi with a posse of diplomats to talk to the media. Grilled by journalists on Pakistan’s compulsions to parley with Kashmiri separatists, Basit kept parroting Pakistan’s commitment to the “peace process” and “include all stakeholders”. To my queries as to why Pakistan involved separatists when two elected governments were to hold talks and how could talks succeed when Pak army continued to violate the ceasefire, Basit merely commented “those are your views”, but without a rationale.
Maj Gen Dhruv Katoch, SM, VSM (retd), Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, while discussing border violations and India’s so far defensive policy, opined: “While Pak army supported terrorists crossing over into India are dealt with by Indian Army, the cost to India is high while the cost to Pakistan remains minimal. This needs to be reversed by imposing a heavy cost on the adjacent Pakistani military posts that are perceived to be supporting the terrorists. The Prime Minister or the President of India should enunciate a national doctrine, which should be supplemented by a military doctrine to implement national policy directives in pursuance of India’s vital national interests”. While the Modi government is responding relatively assertively, what needs to be done is institutionalizing graduated doctrinal responses to ceasefire violations and terrorist attacks by Pakistan.
The author Lt Col Anil Bhat VSM
(Retd) is the Associate Editor of Salute