Reality now is that Line of Control (LOC) ceasefire violations have continued unabated since the beginning of 2013 and the negativity that resonates from it is that both India and Pakistan blame each other for ceasefire violations underscored by distrust, lack of empathy for each other, and threat and fear of the conflict escalating to an all-out conventional war or even nuclear war. All this finds expression in the negative attitudes and behaviors of India and Pakistan towards each other, which has over a period of time culminated into a negative perception which does not allow de-escalation of the conflict between the two. Media plays its role in forming these perceptions. Perceptions may be right or wrong, but if negatively perceived may prove counter-productive in a conflict situation which culminates into the structural and institutional fallacies of the system as well.
As the LOC ceasefire violations between India and Pakistan continue incessantly, with speculations about a conventional war or a Kargil-like situation rife, we are again thrown back to square one in the entire Indo-Pak conundrum. There has been a lot of media coverage on the border skirmishes between the two since the beginning of this year. Recently we have also seen Indian and Pakistani media conflating the blame game over ceasefire violations at the Kashmir border. Very little, if any, analysis has been devoted to the causes that led to such veritable misadventures, so much so that India and Pakistan seem to be on the verge of an all-out war. A rhetoric which has become so frequent that any positive conflict transformation in the South Asian region remains illusory, has to be dealt with as soon as possible by addressing the demands and grievances of all the disputing parties so that a seemingly zero sum game transforms into a positive sum game underscored by cooperation, peace and harmony. A necessary predicament for this is not just to diffuse the crises at the borders but also to engage constructively for acknowledging each other’s grievances and demands and trying to accommodate them. For this it is essential to get to the root causes of the conflict and define them concretely. In other words it also means institutionalizing any efforts towards a peaceful settlement of conflict.
Since the beginning of 2013, we have seen India and Pakistan blaming each other for unprovoked firing and violation of the ceasefire line. Such accusations and statements clearly define the negative attitudes of both India and Pakistan towards each other. The Indian Army continues to think and believe that ceasefire violations is a tactic by Pakistan to infiltrate into the Indian territory with 400 militants still waiting to cross the border. According to them this has also been a major cause for the recent surge in terrorist attacks. This negativity in general has further been conflated by media reports and analyses which have proved to be more dangerous in terms of misleading people through misinformation. Kashmir, in popular perception and in most of the recent analysis is considered as the root cause of the conflict between India and Pakistan and also border skirmishes as a consequence have been attributed to that. But that may not really be the case.
It rather seems to find expression in the historical animosity between the two of which Kashmir conflict was but one consequence. Over a period of time it has been culminated into a perception in the minds of both that any form reconciliation is illusory as they view each other as diabolical enemies, postulated in distrust, offensive posture and lack of empathy towards each other. This historical rivalry which forms the core of conflict between India and Pakistan has now become so rigid that the negativity it reverberates has caused the two to have irreconcilable demands and grievances, of which Kashmir became the most prominent. The negative perceptions that finds expression in historical animosity between the two has over a long period of time transformed into an ego issue and a political symbol for the two as far as Kashmir is concerned.
It must be noted here that India was partitioned on communal grounds for resolving a conflict between two ethnic communities – Hindus and Muslims by creating a separate state for Muslims, by the British. The major consequence of partitions with a view to regulate ethnic conflicts in the world is that it gives rise to other disputes as well and in the context of the Indian partition it was Kashmir. Furthermore if perceptions have not changed, then even if the conflict is ripe for resolution, it will not materialize. The peace dialogue that resumed in 2012 which was stalled after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, it was again stalled in 2013 because of the tension between India and Pakistan. Therefore if we look at the erratic cycle of peace dialogues between India and Pakistan, that says it all. But what needs to be realized is that there is a difference between perception and reality and working on assumptions may not lead to the right path. It can even prove counter-productive in such a conflict situation, as that negativity reflects in the relationship between India and Pakistan. Liaqat Ali who was apparently willing to surrender was apprehended by the Delhi Police for allegedly having entered the Indian Territory to launch a terrorist attack in Delhi to create terror during Holi. But this allegation was disproved by the national investigation agency for lack of evidence against him. This clearly shows a trend of negative perceptions that constrains the security and intelligence agencies to carry out such acts on mere assumptions.
All this finds expression in the disconnect between security and intelligence agencies and also the post-colonial structures from which India has not been able to rise and the same goes for Pakistan as well. This is postulated in as I have mentioned earlier, in confining the work of security and intelligence agencies in dealing with law and order problems and dealing with problem of spies from the rival countries. The relation between India and Pakistan is so distrustful that their negative attitude and behaviour towards each other becomes inevitable in all circumstances. With so much hue and cry about the Samba terrorist attack in Jammu on the eve of the meeting of the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers’ in the United Nations General Assembly to discuss the issues, the way the intelligence and the security agencies worked to prevent such an untoward incident was inefficient and fallacious. The joint mechanisms in India were rendered ineffective in the event of preventing another terrorist attack one after the other in Samba region of Jammu.
Perceptions apart, institutional and structural problems therefore also make any sort of reconciliation impossible. This has become a reality now which is also consequence of a wider sense of negative perception that forms the core of the conflict between India and Pakistan. And this has also led to reluctance on part of the intelligence communities on both sides of the border to share intelligence information, which would have been, not only a good confidence building measure but also a way to resolve the various disputes between them, especially terrorism. But their image of each other as being ‘diabolical enemies’ still rules the roost. Though we have seen some saying that image of India and Pakistan viewing each other as enemies has changed with new leaders being more accommodating than the old ones, nothing seems to have changed yet. It has become pretty evident in the misadventures that have taken place between India and Pakistan thus far, especially since the beginning of 2013. Even if it is under progress, it is probably going to take another generation to get over the negative perceptions as undoing a thing that has taken over 6 decades to become a rigid belief; this will take some time. Perceptions that dictate our behavior and attitude take considerable time to form and become rigid over a period of time, be it positive or negative.
Investigation or probe into LOC ceasefire violations by an unbiased third party so that the accusations and allegations that India and Pakistan forward against each other over this, stand proved or disproved once and for all, is the need of the hour. When the relations between the two are so estranged that any negotiation between the two seems impossible, involvement of an unbiased third party becomes the next best option. But that also seems to be impossible as it finds root in the history of the Kashmir conflict in which both India and Pakistan think on parallel lines with no scope of any convergence. Therefore all this requires a change in perceptions and till that is not achieved any peaceful settlement of the disputes between India and Pakistan including the Kashmir dispute will remain illusory, even if the situation is ripe for settlement.