- By : Z.G.Muhammad
It was yet another dark day for people living on the bloody line dividing Jammu and Kashmir. On Friday, fire-spewing mortar guns that have been thunderously roaring like man eaters for past seventy years devoured ten more human beingsand wounded dozens critically- perhaps disabled for life. Four civilians including a husband and wife and a Border Security Soldier where killed in R. S. Pura and Arina sectors in Jammu. On the other sideof the line, recognized as the working boundary the mortars killed four of a family, a mother and her three children and two other civilians in Sialkot.
Callously, these human tragedies routinely enacted on the Line of Control (LOC) nee Ceasefire Line (CFL) have even lost statistical value for the United Nations, United Nations Human Rights Council, Islamabad, and New Delhi.Since 1948, no updated fact sheet has been brought into the public domain about the number of civilians or military personnel killed in the exchange of fire along the dividing line. The United Nations Military Observers Group mandated by the comity of nations to supervise the CFL/LOC may have computed and compiled the number of civilians and soldiers killed since its offices were set up on both the sides of the dividing line, but figures have not been made public. This opacity has prevented the world from appreciating the dangers that the skirmishes on the LOC pose to peace in theSouth Asian region. Some figures suggest the number of a civilian killedas seventy to eighty thousand,and double thenumber of those disabled for life and the number of those dislodged from their places at different times is equally alarming. The exchange of light and heavy machine guns fire in the fragile eco-system of the hilly areas of the state has been spelling disasters of worst kind beside impacting fauna of flora; it has been rendering people houseless, driving them out of their homes and forcing them to live in refugee camps. Some, for fear of mortar shelling, have been become refugees in their land for their whole life. Majority of the two million people living on both the sides are suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTS). Ironically, the human tragedies enacted routinelyacross the temporary line dividing Jammu and Kashmir have not so far become the cause of concern for the global players.
Some Indian media organizations- print and electronic, tagged the Friday exchange of fire between armies ofthe hostile countries to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Jammu and Kashmir. Islamabad described the firing as ‘unprovoked.’Notwithstanding, the exchange of fire coinciding with the visit of Modi to Srinagar, connecting it conclusively to his visit would not be a fair game.The ‘LOC’ after the 2004 Ceasefire Agreement suddenly becameas hot it was at the time of its birth- with armies of two countriesregularly targetting each other. Ostensibly the reason for this hotting up is the wrongly conceived hot pursuit doctrine. One hot pursuit always leads to another and bitterness has never paid any dividends. India-Pakistan relations have been on an evenkeel only when the two countries were engaged in composite dialogue for resolution of their outstanding issues including, the Kashmir Dispute.
Pakistan on Friday stated that ‘in 2018, the Indian forces carried out more than 1050 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, resulting in the killing of 28 innocent civilians.’ New Delhi has a similar story to tell. The Friday firings that happened relatively after a fortnight’s calm interestingly came at a time when Pakistan military held an olive branch for New Delhi. On Thursday Major-General Asif Ghafoor, Director-General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) of Pakistan, told journalists that “the Pakistan Army is ready to inject itself into any dialogue process with India formally.” Stating that ‘ the two countries could not jump to the moon, to begin with, he pleaded for small steps.’In a way, it is a positive development because ‘India has long felt that the Pakistan Army is not on the same page with the country’s civilian government when it engages in talks with New Delhi.’ Amit Baruah of Hindu who reports for the newspaper from Islamabad rightly observed that it was “a rare on-the-record conversation.” The Pakistan army waiving olive branch at a time when the country is going for general election may or may not find a response in New Delhi.But it should engage the attention of the political elite and opinion makers in the two countries why the situation on the “LOC” after a brief spell of calm repetitively comes to a boil. Former Indian Foreign Minister and diplomat, Natwar Singh in his autobiography, ‘One Life Are Not Enough’ has rightly observed, ‘The futureof India-Pakistan relations, lies in the past.’ India and Pakistan at the time of their birthinherited a few disputes- and Kashmir Dispute is central to all these disputes and issues.Seventy years on they have failed to resolve them.To understand, why the dance of death repetitively visits the LOC, one needs to visit the history of its birth of the line and mechanism evolved under its supervision.
In this column, it is not possible to dwell upon the subject in greater detail, how the Ceasefire Line renamed as the LOC after 1972, Shimla Agreement came into being. The whole range of UN resolutions and debates on the subject are fully documented.Origin of the Cease-fire is directly connected to various resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. These resolutions were born only after ‘India and Pakistan had desired the accession of Jammu and Kashmir should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite.’ To see the plebiscite held in the state under the aegis of the two countries had signed a Cease-fire line agreement. The military representative of India and Pakistan under the auspices of the Truce-Sub Committee of United Nation Commission For India and Pakistan met for ten days from 18 July 1948 to 27 July 1948 in Karachi. An hammered out an elaborate agreement- covering minutest detail. In this agreement it was agreed that the UNCIP would station observers where ever it deems necessary. The observers worked in tandem with the UNCIP team. After the expiry of the UNCIP, 30 March 1951, the Security Council, by its resolution 91 decided that UNMOGIP should continue to supervise the ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir. The group has to investigate and monitor the cease violations, to see peace on the dividing line till the resolution of Kashmir. In 1972, India and Pakistan signed a bilateral agreement at Simla. The Summit was primarily about repatriation of Pakistan who had surrendered in Pakistan- now Bangladesh. In this agreement the Ceasefire line was renamed The Line of Control’, it was subordinate to clause ‘without prejudice to recognized position’. It was nothing more than an ‘interim arrangement’, it was substantiated by Indian minister for external affairs on 10 October 1972, “That the ‘Line of Control’ was obviously the new ceasefire line’. The statement was in accordance with New Delhi that entire Jammu and Kashmir’. So the change of nomenclature did not alter the role of UNMOGIP. The Secretary-General some years back also cleared it that the UNMOGIP could be terminated only by a decision of the Security Council. So it becomes the bounden duty of India, Pakistan and the UN Security Council to see cease-fire on the dividing line respected and save the lives of people living on both the sides of the dividing line. The UN Secretary-General has bigger role to play not only in ensuring peace on the “LOC” but also for ensuring lasting peace in the region – and resolving the last pending dispute on its agenda.
C : Counter Currents
(Z. G .MUHAMMAD is a
Columnist and Writer based in