Is Pak brutality along LoC part of pre-poll noise?

History has shown that Pakistani politicians and hawkish elements within the establishment play the anti-India card harder before or during elections there. Is the brutal killing of Hemraj and Sudhakar Singh part of that effort to turn up the heat?

trithesh

Trithesh Nandan | January 10, 2013



While both defence minister AK Antony and external affairs minister Salman Khurshid condemned Pakistan’s recent action as “inhuman” and “highly provocative”, the incident brings to mind Kargil of circa 1999, when Captain Saurabh Kalia was imprisoned during the war and Pakistan later sent his mutilated body.

But even if we take that as a wartime casualty, though the brutality and bestiality shown by the Pakistan army that tortured and mutilated the Indian officers cannot be condoned even then, there was zero provocation this time around. Even 26/11 Mumbai terror attack convict Ajmal Kasab’s hanging went off silently across the border, barring noises made by certain Pakistani terror organisations and ramping up the anti-India tone post-execution.

So what has prompted the Pakistani army to raise the heat on the LoC? Barring this week’s gruesome killings, Indian army officials say Pakistan army violated the ceasefire agreement on the Line of Control (LoC) nearly a dozen times in just the last one month. Rajouri, Uri and Keran sectors of Jammu and Kashmir were areas targeted most by Pakistani army personnel in these incidents to help infiltration attempts, according to army officials.

But elections and the Kashmir question is a deadly cocktail in Pakistani politics — no politician wants to be seen as muted or sleeping on the ‘K’ issue — and with parliamentary elections in Pakistan scheduled this spring (though when polling is actually held is a different debate), jingoism has already started building up there. The anti-India stance and India-bashing is a card as old as the country itself, and such demagoguery is a staple diet of politicians before and during general elections to divert people’s attention from poor performance of its governments in power. 

The recent volatility across the LoC, with the gruesome killing of lance naiks Hemraj and Sudhakar Singh topping the acts of violence, could be seen from this angle.

Also significant is the fact that firing across the LoC has increased only after Pakistan army’s recent radical change in its military doctrine. The country was seen as having replaced its enemy number one — India — with the terrorists along the Afghanistan border and those within the country. Many thought the Pakistani army’s doctrine is path-breaking in terms of change of heart vis-à-vis India by the core of its establishment— mainly the army and ISI, considered the hawkish elements in the country.

But this week’s incident belies this line of argument. There is a view that any such doctrine to shift the primary enemy, even if it exists, is only a cosmetic exercise for the West but that forces bent upon acting as spoilers within the Pakistani establishment are just as active.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, New Delhi’s response has been lukewarm so far. The South Block woke up and swung into action only late on Tuesday and Wednesday, after channels flashed news of the duo’s killing. Salman Bashir, the Pakistan high commissioner to India, was summoned by the ministry of external affairs (MEA) to meet external affairs minister Salman Khurshid and foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai.

The snail-like movement on such key issues only goes to show the UPA government’s inability to deal with crisis situations — right from the Anna Hazare movement on Lokpal in 2011 to the more recent events after the south Delhi gangrape last month and now the LoC firing.

In a recent interview to a Pakistani newspaper, Khurshid had said, “Once a car derails, it takes time to bring it back on track.” History shows that Indo-Pak relations have almost always been hostage to such derailments.

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