The mutual decision of Indian and Pakistani military officials to reinforce ceasefire along the borders in line with the 2003 ceasefire agreementis noteworthy, however, in order to ensure that the ceasefire agreement survives this time for longer periods, both countries need to take urgent measures to formalize it.
On 29th May 2018, Pakistan and Indian authorities decided to curb the current on-going border skirmishes across the de facto border between Indian and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Line of Control (LoC) and complied with a ceasefire agreement signed between the two nuclear-armed neighbors in 2003. The cross-border firings have gone on for years without an end in sight however, their intensity was further increased after the significant deterioration in India-Pakistan relations post-Uri attack 2016. The recent pledge of both the countries to respect ceasefire commitment in the disputed region of Kashmir brings us to two questions:
After two years of the impasses and years of violations across the LoC, what made both countries to revive the ceasefire agreement?
How can both countries work to make the pact last longer this time without any violations?
Ceasefire agreement of 2003
On 26 November 2003, the ceasefire agreement took effect along the de facto border between Indian and Pakistan administered Kashmir i.e. Line of Control. It facilitated the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalkot routes, paving the way for bus and truck services linking the two Kashmirs for the first time in six decades and encouraging cross-LoC contacts, exchanges, travel, and trade. Even though, these bus services continue to run showing the long-term significance of such agreements, the agreement itself proved to be short-lived and had only been successful intermittently.The ceasefire agreement has been violated many times in the last 15 years with growing frequency after 2008 and then recently in 2016.
Following suit of their previous ceasefire violations, both countries accuse each other of violating the ceasefire agreement in 2016 as well. They blamed the other for “unprovoked firing” and described their own actions as mere “retaliation.” Both bragged that they have responded ‘befittingly” to the other’s aggression and inflicted “heavy casualties.”
While the puzzle, who violates the ceasefire first, is insoluble, however, both sides blame it onto another. Pakistan alleges that Indian government uses thesefirings to satisfy the domestic political-psychological need for retribution in order to prevent the loss of support from the masses, whereas India contends that Pakistan army is using these skirmishes to regain its lost prestige through after the surgical strike conducted in Pakistan-administered-Kashmir.
Restoration of the ceasefire agreement in 2018: benefits
The revival of the ceasefire is advantageous for both the countries. It will plummet the human toll and the economic costs for both countries. Most importantly,it will improve the security conditions of the region.
From the Indian point of view, recommencing the ceasefire will help it to curb infiltration and cross-border terrorism from the Pakistani side. Since India alleges Pakistan to induce cross-border terrorist activities in India, the ceasefire would become a halt for Pakistan in providing safe cover to such activities. Therefore, India could expect in the reduction of such infiltrations in the presence of the ceasefire agreement.
From Pakistan’s point of view, it can help the country to deploy less army to the eastern border and use it in the current ongoing Operation Radd-ul fassad against terrorists inWaziristan (the western region of the country). Even though a ceasefire doesn’t mean that Pakistan willfully vacate army from the LoC area, but it certainly will help the country to choose its battles wisely during the time when the Pakistani army is waging a crucial fight against terrorists on its soil. That is the reason that the Pakistan army has sought to revive the ceasefire with India and has declared that waging a war with India is not its agenda. A similar statement has been given by Pakistan Premier Khaqan Abbasi during the last year showing Pakistan’s aim to shift its focus more towards curtailing terrorism in the country rather than engaging in a war with India.
Formalization of ceasefire agreement
In the absence of current political dialogue between India and Pakistan, the chances that this renewal of the agreement will last long are minimum. Both countries have agreed to go back and abide by the 2003 agreement many times, but the pledge fails to last long.Happymon Jacob, Indian academician and researcher in his research “Ceasefire Violations in Jammu and Kashmir: A Line of Fire” describes the reasons for such pattern as “the agreement is “not a written agreement.” There are “no rules, norms or principles governing the ceasefire agreement,” he said, observing that “a ceasefire agreement without the attendant dos and don’ts is not useful to the security forces on the ground.” He also states that “there is a positive correlation between ceasefire violations and escalation. They have the potential not only to spark a bilateral military, diplomatic, and political crisis but also escalate any ongoing crisis, especially in the aftermath of terror incidents.”
His solution to avoid future escalation because of LoC crossfires and to make this agreement work for a long time is, “A clear and detailed signed agreement that itemizes the attendant dos, don’ts, rules, guidelines, and principles would enable the two sides to better manage the border and significantly reduce the ad hoc nature of the current arrangements”. There are two other border agreements signed by the two countries: the 1949 Karachi Agreement and the 1960 Ground Rules Agreement. Jacob points out that although India maintains that the 1972 Shimla Agreement superseded the 1949 Karachi agreement, but Jacob states that India’s will in “adopting some of its salient features into a new agreement would send a strong signal of willingness to compromise and cooperate to Islamabad” and Pakistan should accept the border pillars in the Jammu-Sialkot sector as the temporary border until the final settlement of the J&K dispute.”
The vow to revive the ceasefire agreement by both sides is commendable, however, there is a dire need to formalize and strengthen the ceasefire agreement of 2003 if both countries aim for the agreement not to be violated again. Such an initiative will help to alleviate diplomatic tensions and will reduce the soldier and civilian casualties at the LoC.
Political Scientist: Taliban Rule will not bring Afghanistan to the Stability and Development
The evidence suggests that the Taliban movement cannot stabilize Afghanistan and does not want to fight international terrorism that threatens the region and stability globally.
The day before, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a report on Afghanistan, citing increasing security problems. For example, the paper states that foreign terrorist groups remain in the country. “The security situation reveals a worrisome trend in recent months, particularly the series of attacks by ISIL-K, recurring armed opposition clashes with Taliban de facto security forces and the continuing presence of foreign terrorist groups in Afghanistan,” the UN Secretary General’s report says. The report also declared that the US statement on the elimination of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul “highlighted the ongoing ties between the terrorist group and the Taliban, which go against the latter’s obligations to combat terrorism.”
At the same time, the Taliban claims that there are no more terrorist groups in Afghanistan. “We will never allow anyone to pose a threat from Afghanistan to other countries,” Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Nafi Thakur said.
It should be pointed out that the leader of Al-Qaeda was destroyed in the guarded central district of Kabul, where international organizations, diplomatic missions and administrative facilities are located. It is pretty tricky to assume that the leadership of the Taliban movement was not aware of the presence of this terrorist. If the Taliban security forces did not know that Zawahiri was hiding in Kabul, they would not control the situation even in the heart of Afghanistan. If we assume the opposite, the Taliban’s policy of supporting or, at least, reluctance to fight international terrorist organizations is apparent. Recall that the Taliban promised the international community to fight international terrorism more actively in exchange for humanitarian aid and possible recognition of their regime in the future.
Moreover, it gives the impression that the main sponsor of the Taliban, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, has lost control of the movement. It is obvious that organizations similar to the Taliban cannot function successfully without foreign economic, military and political assistance. The Pakistani military, particularly the ISI, took part in creating the Taliban movement in the 1990s and patronized them all this time. It is known that there are many Islamabad henchmen in the Taliban leadership, and either radicals or Pakistanis do not hide close ties and contacts. However, neither the Pakistanis nor other players can exert pressure on the Taliban. At least, the political pressure that is being exerted now by the international community is not enough: the Taliban do not show a desire to begin the fight against terrorism.
In the theory of political science and international relations, I am unaware of cases when similar regimes have gained success and contributed to the long-term development of their countries, societies and regions. In this regard, it can be considered that the Taliban and their patrons must significantly and profoundly transform their guidelines, ideology and management strategies. Otherwise, as experience shows, in the future, similar regimes end badly, which affects the stable development and position of their countries and nations.
World ‘must engage’ or risk Afghanistan’s collapse
“Patience is running out” for many in the international community when it comes to effectively engaging with Afghanistan’s de facto rulers, the Taliban, senior UN envoy for the country, Markus Potzel, told the Security Council on Tuesday.
Despite some positive developments over the past few months, the Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan said they have been “too few and too slow and they are outweighed by the negatives”.
He drew attention to the ongoing ban on girls’ secondary education and growing restrictions on women’s rights, as “signals that the Taliban are indifferent to more than 50 per cent of the population” and are willing to risk international isolation.
“The relegation of women and girls to the home not only deprives them of their rights, but Afghanistan as a whole is denied the benefit of the significant contributions that women and girls have to offer,” he detailed.
Terrorism concerns ‘dismissed’
Meanwhile, from armed clashes to deadly terrorist attacks, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has monitored a steady rise in security incidents by terrorist groups and others.
“Our earlier warnings about the capabilities of Islamic State Khorosan Province (ISKP) were dismissed by the Taliban”, he told ambassadors.
“But ISKP has demonstrated in the last few months alone that it can carry out assassinations of figures close to the Taliban, attacks against foreign embassies, as well as fire rockets across Afghanistan’s border to attack its neighbours – all while maintaining its long-standing sectarian campaign against Shia Muslims and ethnic minorities,” said Mr. Potzel.
Provincial rights violations
And armed clashes are continuing between Taliban security forces and armed opposition groups in the Panjshir, Baghlan, Kapisa, Takhar, and Badakhshan provinces, the UN envoy continued.
“There are disturbing reports, as well as videos and photos, indicating possible serious human rights violations committed in Panjshir,” he said, calling for an investigation into allegations of extra-judicial killings there.
The mission will continue to carefully monitor these and other reports of serious human rights violations, he added.
UN bolstering cash economy
As per capita income has collapsed to 2007 levels – erasing 15 years of economic growth – the country’s economic situation “remains tenuous” (with little detail forthcoming from the Taliban) due in part to Afghanistan’s isolation from the international banking system.
“Liquidity remains heavily dependent on the cash that the UN continues to bring in for humanitarian operations – cash, I must stress, that supports the needs of the Afghan people and does not directly reach the de facto authorities,” said Mr. Potzel.
But even the funding is uncertain as the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan has only received $1.9 billion out of a $4.4 billion requirement.
Humanitarian and economic measures will not meet the Afghan people’s longer-term needs, and the emergency aid cannot replace essential service delivery systems, such as health and water, or hold off an economic collapse, he warned.
Moreover, a continued lack of political inclusivity and transparency in decision-making leave most Afghans without any government representation.
“There are no consistent mechanisms for citizens to provide feedback to the authorities and little indication that the Taliban wish to even hear any,” the UN envoy said.
‘We have to engage’
While the Taliban’s self-identified emirate has not been recognized by any State, the international community also does not want to see the country collapse, Mr. Potzel stressed.
“If the Taliban do not respond to the needs of all elements of Afghan society and constructively engage within the very limited window of opportunity with the international community, it is unclear what would come next,” said the Deputy Special Representative.
“Further fragmentation, isolation, poverty, and internal conflict are among the likely scenarios, leading to potential mass migration and a domestic environment conducive to terrorist organizations, as well as greater misery for the Afghan population.
“That’s why we have to engage”, he declared, adding that “continued qualified engagement” was the most realistic way of helping the Afghan people.
Changing Regional Security Paradigm: A Challenge to Kashmir and Options for Pakistan
The post-cold war world has witnessed shifts in international and regional security paradigms. Due to globalization, easy migrations, advanced technologies, changing geopolitical scenarios, and social resources the world today is more vulnerable to diversified threats. In this regard, traditional conflict resolution tactics are not enough or influential. New strategies and options are needed to gain interest without being in direct war and confrontations. One such old conflict which has been there for more than 70 years despite 3 major wars between India and Pakistan is Kashmir Issue. While Pakistan is struggling economically and politically, India on the other side is increasing its soft power projection within the region and beyond, posing a serious threat to the traditional tactics of Pakistan towards the Kashmir cause.
The 4 major factors that boosted the strategies of the Indian state are identity, security, prosperity, and soft power. Along with defense, India was focused on its economy, diplomacy, and identity so much from the past few years. It is one of the key drivers of the global economic market, making up about 15% of the world’s economic output. Soon India will become the world’s largest country by Population, accounting for maximum youth, meaning it is offering incentives, consumer markets, and youth force to other countries. Moreover, India has become the third largest producer of steel (producer with Arcelor- Mittal), enhancing the credibility and reliability of MADE IN INDIA across the globe. It is considered an IT giant. Many IT companies from India entered Fortune 500-group that has opened doors of businesses and jobs for the Indian youth.
Furthermore, along with being a major partner in trade and commerce in the international market, regionally India provides aid and acts as an advocate of welfare for many developing countries in Asia. Along with that, it is also looking towards opportunities to gain the interest of Afghanistan which is an internationally isolated state. Internationally, it has become a major geo-strategic and geo-economic partner of many western states like the US and UK, as it has the potential to counter the Chinese Rise. It is part of various geopolitical alliances initiated for the containment of China such as QUAD and middle eastern alliances i.e., I2U2. Moreover, India also has a settled Middle Eastern policy to benefit from all major actors instead of choosing blocs. Thus, India has worked on its economy, over the years to bring prosperity and self-sufficiency within the country. It has provided markets and incentives to other countries thereby increasing its lobbying power. Through its strong diplomacy, it has become a major actor that also promoted its values and identity.
Lastly one can’t deny that the hegemonic capabilities of India have challenged the Kashmiris and their freedom movements. India is now integrating into Kashmir not only militarily but also diplomatically, politically, and economically. It has incentivized the Kashmir issue as well. After India revoked articles 370 and 35A It is working on Kashmir’s demographic changes. India also opened doors for tourism and international investments in Kashmir. If someone starts investing there, that will normalize that Kashmir is part of India. Yet India didn’t receive any backlash, nor it is isolated or being sanctioned. The reason is simple, India has good ties with many western states. It provides incentives and fulfills the economic and political interests of the west.
For Pakistan, which is a party to the conflict, instead of normative a more realistic approach is required now. Though Pakistan has emotional attachments with Kashmir but it’s not enough to just talk about morals and injustice at international forums. If Pakistan wants to support the Kashmiris it should enhance its intellectual power, academia, and soft power projection. Literature and academia help export the actual ideologies and narratives to the rest of the world. The Kashmiri diaspora within Pakistan and abroad should be supported for that. In addition, Pakistan needs to increase its influence to counter India not only in the military sector but also in the economic and political domains. The defense ratio between Pakistan and India is 1/8 while on the other hand in the economy it is 1/20. Though the importance of defense can’t be ignored in the balance of power, but international politics has evolved, and power is not limited to military only. One can look at the two recent world events where there was the use of force and weapons to gain interests i.e., Afghanistan and the Ukraine-Russian war. Afghanistan is now internationally isolated while Russia is being sanctioned and criticized. So, direct confrontations and wars are not accepted and supported by states at broad levels. Thus, with the changing global political and strategic environment it is important to work on spheres of academia, research, soft power, and diplomacy.
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