Is Indo-Pakistan Peace Possible? Aniket Aggarwal Discusses Efforts of India and Pakistan to Reconcile Their Differences in Light of Violence in Kargil and Mumbai
Aggarwal, Aniket, New Zealand International Review
In the recent past, both India and Pakistan have been accusing each other of ceasefire violations across the Line of Control in Kashmir, and both have denied the other's accusations. While both claim such accusations to be baseless, the reality on the ground, the casualties, cannot be denied. The Kashmir dispute is the prime territorial dispute in the region. It is, in fact, one of the most prolonged and still unsettled disputes in the history of the United Nations. Could the recent aggression in the region lead to an all-out war? If so, should we consider the possibility of nuclear warfare? Is it possible that Pakistan's army still takes some independent decisions in these matters? How does public sentiment shape the face of foreign policy in both the nations?
Although the issue dates back to 1947, the current tensions between the two 'nuclear' states can be attributed to the 1999 Kargil War. That conflict brought defining changes in the way that the world perceived both nations and the way they interacted with each other. It is also significant for providing a rare account of how nuclear capable states interact in a conflict situation.
The armies of both nations had an unspoken mutual understanding for years that they would withdraw to low altitudes in winter and return to their respective posts in spring. In the spring of 1999, local shepherds reported Pakistani intrusions in the vacated Indian posts in the Kargil area. Indian soldiers who went on patrol near the town of Kargil, about 8 kilometres on the Indian side of the Line of Control, were ambushed by assailants firing from undetectable positions high among the frozen peaks of the Himalayas. After several weeks of denial by Pakistani officials, the Indian authorities asserted that the intruders were not civil militants, but rather well trained and equipped troops of Pakistan's Northern Light Infantry (NLI). With similar reports from the Dras, Kaksar and Mushkoh sectors, Indians became conscious that the infiltration was much larger and better organised than they had realised. India then mounted a significant military and diplomatic campaign to counter the intrusion, in what they later termed the 'Kargil War'. After 55 days of intense fighting within the Kargil, Dras, Kaksar and Mushkoh sectors, during which both sides suffered several hundred casualties, Pakistan ordered its troops to retreat. The crisis ended and the status quo ante bellum was restored.
Research by the Centre for Contemporary Conflict subsequently confirmed India's claim that the intruders were NLI troops rather than civilian militants. (1) Later, Pervez Musharraf, the former president of Pakistan, admitted in his autobiography In the Line of Fire to using NLI troops in the fighting. (2) Pakistan's strategy to deceive India and the rest of the world into believing that the reported intrusions were carried out by civilian militants fighting to liberate Kashmir worked brilliantly in favour of Pakistan at the outset of the crisis. Pakistan clung to this deceit well after their troops' direct involvement in the war was revealed. There are a number of explanations for Islamabad's persistence in claiming that the conflict was completely civil in nature. Firstly, India's initial response was hampered by the need to prepare units for its response, a requirement that favoured Pakistan militarily. Further, most of the world saw Kargil as an extension of the struggle to liberate Kashmir rather than a conflict with territorial aims. If Pakistan had agreed on NLI responsibility for the intrusion, it would have had to give an explanation to the international community for its unprovoked military aggression and its disrespect for the on-going Lahore peace process. Islamabad also recognised the fact that the international community would not tolerate its forceful occupation of India's territory.
But Pakistan's actions severed the Indo-Pakistan peace process, caused a severe cletenoranon in US-Pakastan relations and undermined Pakistan's international credibility, leaving it labelled as an irresponsible aggressor capable of behaving irrationally. …