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No harm inviting Pakistani army chief for talks

To prove that India is not unreasonable, there may be no harm in Indian Army Chief, Gen Bipin Rawat, inviting his counterpart, Gen Qamar Bajwa. If things actually improve from Pakistan’s side, it may mean a miracle and, if they do not, which is most likely, then India should inform the world yet again about Pakistan’s duplicity as seen in the past.

Jun 2, 2018
By Anil Bhat
 
Yet again Pakistan has made a mockery of peace initiatives by India by perpetrating continued violence/terrorist attacks across the Li
 
ne of Control (LoC) and Kashmir Valley during Ramzan and the Amarnath Yatra (pilgrimage), targeting Indian civilians across the International Boundary (IB) in the plains area of Jammu & Kashmir.
 
While as recently stated by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman that India takes any move for peace by Pakistan very seriously, Pakistan has never implemented its peace proposals on the ground. Any appeal for ceasefire or peace by Pakistan army or its rangers or by the separatists in Kashmir Valley has been mainly to get a break to regroup/reinforce and strike again. And all these appeals come after even school children and tourists were targeted and killed by radicalised stone-pelting mobs incited and organized by Pakistan's  Inter Services Intelligence through the Kashmiri separatists and their network.      
 
"The Spy Chronicles – RAW, ISI and The Illusion Of Peace", co-authored by former Research and Analysis Wing Director A.S. Dulat and former Pakistani ISI chief Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani (retired), is prominently in the news. Pakistan army has summoned Durrani to seek his explanation after ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif demanded an urgent meeting of the high-powered National Security Committee (NSC) to discuss the content of the book. 
 
Dulat has referred to  Pakistan Army chief  General Qamar Bajwa “making all the right noises", in  his remarks in April 2018, that disputes, including Kashmir, between India and Pakistan can be solved only through peace talks and suggests that India should invite him for talks. "We should invite General Bajwa, the army chief. He has been talking peace and also a lot of our frustration in our dialogue with Pakistan is because we feel frustrated by the armed forces or what we call the 'deep state' -- the ISI or the army. Therefore, why not talk to the army chief directly? He is talking reasonably now. Why not invite the army chief, just an idea," Dulat  told a national news agency.
 
Military dialogues between Director Generals Military Operations (DGMO) of India and Pakistan and of India’s Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers have been held  by way of talking on the hotline and visits a number of times in past years. However, in every case, Pakistan has been back to square one soon afterwards or some time afterwards.
 
The Pakistani DGMO, Major General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, called his Indian counterpart Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan over hotline on 29 May 2018 evening  to initiate “sincere measures” to improve the border situation and spare civilians hardships. The Indian DGMO agreed to the proposal to “fully implement the ceasefire understanding of 2003 in letter and spirit and to ensure that henceforth the ceasefire will not be violated by both sides,”  as mentioned in a statement issued by the Indian Army.  Both  DGMOs agreed that the two armies would exercise restraint and that border issues would be resolved through existing mechanisms such as hotline contact and flag meetings at the level of local commanders. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations also issued a similar statement.
 
The Pakistani DGMO had spoken to Chauhan on April 27, 2018 to complain against “unprovoked firing and calibre escalation” (meaning firing of mortar bombs also) along the LoC by Indian forces. Chauhan responded by saying Indian forces had only carried out retaliatory firing. Pakistan has violated the ceasefire along the LoC and the international border close to 1,100 times in barely first five months of 2018 itself resulting in the death of over 35 people.
 
Over 100,000 Indian civilians in villages along the IB and LoC were displaced owing to their having to flee to safer places.
 
Indian Army has clearly stated in the hotline discussions that the onus of de-escalation along the LoC rests with Pakistan Army - to stop supporting terrorists and end unprovoked ceasefire violations to abet infiltration or to deliberately cause loss of civilian lives/ destruction of civilian property.  
 
While basically India’s stand has been that talks and terror cannot go together, cricket got banned, some  Pakistani actors acting in Bollywood films were banished, talks by India’s DGMOs and border forces have been held in the past. The results of such earlier talks were that neither the Pakistan army/ISI, nor its border rangers honoured any of the commitments/agreements made. 
 
Authorities in Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir have initiated the process of constructing over 5,500 underground bunkers and 200 community halls as well as ‘border bhavans’ to help border dwellers facing the brunt of Pakistani shelling and firing. The project, to be completed in the current financial has already been approved by the state government and Union Ministry of Home Affairs. In December 2017, the Centre announced construction of 14,460 individual and community bunkers for people living along the LoC and IB in Jammu region as a step to ensure their safety in the wake of frequent cross-border shelling. Every family residing in 0-3km range from LoC would be provided an individual family bunker during Phase-I of the project while community bunkers and halls will be strictly constructed near schools, hospitals, police stations, police posts, government buildings and panchayat ghars for safe accommodation and better utilisation during peace time.
 
The Pak DGMO’s call came after Pakistan’s response to Jammu and Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti’s request for a ceasefire during Ramzan was continued high levels of  violence/terrorist attacks across the Line of Control (LoC) and, through its paid pawns, the separatists, in Kashmir Valley during Ramzan and the Amarnath Yatra (pilgrimage), as well as majorly targeting Indian civilians across the International Boundary (IB) in the plains area of Jammu & Kashmir.
 
Objecting to the very term "ceasefire" by Mehbooba Mufti, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav asserted that security forces would end their operations in the Valley if "terrorism stops….We shouldn't be using terms like ceasefire etc in this situation. If by ceasefire, one meant ceasing of operations by forces in the valley during Ramzan, what is expected is that during Ramzan terrorists will abstain from terrorist activities…..If terrorism stops operations will automatically stop. Forces are duty bound to save people. We are open for talks but as far as terrorism is concerned it is our duty to deal with it with an iron hand."
 
Mehbooba’s appeal coming after even school children and tourists were targeted and killed by radicalised stone-pelting mobs incited by Kashmiri separatists/traitors is nothing short of ridiculous.
 
To prove that India is not unreasonable, there may be no harm in Indian Army Chief, Gen Bipin Rawat, inviting his counterpart, Gen Qamar Bajwa. If that  invitation is accepted it will provide great optics for the media. If things actually improve from Pakistan’s side, it may mean a miracle and, if they do not, which is most likely, then India should inform the world yet again about Pakistan’s duplicity as always practised by it in the past.
 
(The author, a former Defence Ministry and Indian Army spokesperson, is a strategic analyst. He can be contacted at wordsword02@yahoo.com)

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