ANALYSIS by Binoo Joshi
We , all , are living in a denial about the November 2003 ceasefire pact . This ceasefire, which bought calm on the borders – 198 km international border, 742 km zigzagging , running up and down the mountains Line of Control ( LoC) and Siachen – lasted for 13 months . To be precise ( Nov 26, 2003 to January 5, 2005) . It was early morning on January 5, when Pakistan had fired 35 mm mortar shells in Poonch sector . India did not retaliate . Pakistan had violated the ceasefire to provide cover to the infiltrators.
India that had maintained that it would uphold the sanctity of the ceasefire did not retaliate even when it was violated in February 2005 in Mendhar sector in Poonch . There was a simple answer by the then army chief N C Vij, “ we don’t want to give any excuse to Pakistan to escalate the situation on the borders. If we retaliate, things would spiral out of control.”
There was a backdrop to this strategic outlook. The ceasefire had come into being on the auspicious day of Eid-ul-Fitr , a Muslim festival that marks the end of Ramzan, the holy month of fasting and ushers in time for celebration. This was the call of Pakistan, then ruled by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf , to silence guns on borders, which had troubled and caused casualties to the forces and civilians alike. The border population had migrated to safe places and was living a life of penury. India had responded positively to the offer and the guns were silenced and the two armies on borders to mark the occasion exchanged sweets.
November 2003 was preceded by an extraordinary gesture of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee . He had offered a “ hand of friendship to Pakistan” and sought its reciprocation from Islamabad by shutting its tap of terrorism. The April 18 speech from Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium, Srinagar had set the ball rolling for more positives to emerge between India and Pakistan. Then, Pakistan Prime Minister of Pakistan Zaffarullah Khan Jamali was quick to welcome Vajpayee’s call for friendship. A narrative of peace had started , and there was a clear attempt by the two countries to forget the past and move ahead. And, the ceasefire became one of the biggest confidence building measures- the peace on borders saw people returning to their homes on borders, tending fields , and children back in the renovated schools after a gap of nearly seven years. This was no mean achievement . It had its reflection in the internal situation in Jammu and Kashmir . A relative peace dawned and the militant organisations got a clear message that the Pakistani establishment would not back them as before. Moreover post 9/11 Kashmir was wary of siding with any movement that had the element of terrorism in it.
Despite occasional violations , in which Indian soldiers also suffered casualties in 2007 and 2008, things were not allowed to escalate. The standard line of the Indian commanders was: “ Ceasefire is holding on.” President Musharraf had offered his four-point formula- ( a) irrelevant borders( b) self governance ( c) demilitarization from both sides o the LoC and ( d) joint Indo-Pakistan mechanism to administer Jammu and Kashmir . A lot of debate had been going on the formula. The cross- LoC travel had resumed in April 2005, hailed as an “ unstoppable march of ( Indo-Pak) peace by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Siachen glacier was sought to be “ converted into mountain of peace” without altering the boundaries.
Post 26/11 not only the dream of peace collapsed, the process to destroy the ceasefire had also begun . There was spike in infiltration and the cover fire, which India had started retaliating. That was the beginning but in 2016 , it has come a full circle threatening a war like situation . When every day millions of bullets are fired from each side from different parts, the talk of ceasefire or its violation , is a deception . The peace truce has been shattered into pieces, and it would take long time before those can be put together.