Pakistan and India have been sharing a complex history of relations in which they have been engaged in three major wars and many conflicts. The relationship between these nuclear rival states is generally hostile because of various political events, which are a continuation of the ferocious partition of the Subcontinent in 1947. Amongst all the clashes and disputes, the most prominent has been the issue of Kashmir primarily due to its geography and political significance. Therefore, since the independence of both countries, Kashmir has remained a disputed territory.
Followed by the Karachi Agreement on 27th of July, 1949, Kashmir was divided into two parts one controlled by India and the other by Pakistan, under the supervision of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP). Initially, it was referred to as the cease-fire line but later the name was changed to the ‘Line of Control (LoC)’ after the Simla Agreement in 1972. Hence, the term LoC can be elucidated as a de facto border, which is not recognized as a legal international boundary between India and Pakistan. As a result, cross border shelling can be witnessed frequently at the LoC. The ostensive reason of frequent cross border shelling is that neither side wants to give up their stance on Kashmir. Therefore, the inbred hostility and acrimony drives them to do so in order to take an advantage over one another.
Another reason for the violation of the LoC is that the 2003 Agreement has not been formalized yet. In this Agreement, Pakistan and India agreed upon formal ceasefire at the LoC and to start a composite dialogue for a peaceful solution to all bilateral issues. But this peace process could not continue for long, owing to the trust deficit between the two countries. Moreover, incidents like Samjhauta Express, Mumbai, Uri and Pathankot attacks imperiled the peace endeavors in the region.
Each side has taken precautionary measures to avoid firing across the border. India has claimed alleged Pakistani infiltration in the Indian-held Kashmir whereas Pakistan terms Indian unprovoked shelling as their persuasion of hegemonic status in the region. Nevertheless, India started to fence the LoC in 1990s which was completed in 2004. Covering the whole length of the LoC with three layers of security system fences, barbed wires and lighting. Making it impossible to pass through these hurdles without getting too much attention of the BSF forces. Additionally, India has installed sensors, thermal imagers and night vision devices along the LoC, which have improved the detection system.
Moreover, India is working on implementing ‘Comprehensive Integrated Border Management’ (CIBM) along the border with Pakistan including LoC along with regular fence and laser walls.
Moreover, India is working on implementing ‘Comprehensive Integrated Border Management’ (CIBM) along the border with Pakistan including LoC along with regular fence and laser walls. CIBM is a multi-layered and patrol-free fence along India’s border with Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistan has also built security barriers along the LoC to deal with Indian aggression.
During the past few years, India’s unprovoked and indiscriminate cross border shelling and firing has increased significantly, especially since Prime Minister Modi has sworn as an Indian Premier. There have been over 7000 ceasefire violations by India along the UN sponsored ceasefire line during Modi’s four years of tenure. According to Pakistan’s Foreign Office, India has violated ceasefire over 1,300 times in the past year alone, which has resulted in 52 deaths and left 175 injured. This is an indication of the ‘hegemonic conduct of India’ towards the region as well as Pakistan.
Another aspect can be illustrated as a political factor in order to gain public support. For instance, following the Uri attack, the Indian Government felt pressurized by its public to retaliate against Pakistan. Hence, in order to cope up with the pressure, Indian authorities projected cross-LoC violations as surgical strikes along the LoC. In addition, through cross border shelling, India has been trying to deflect the world’s attention from the massive human rights violations conducted by the Indian military in Indian-held Kashmir. It is noteworthy to mention that it could be part of Indian strategy to employ the doctrine of limited war against Pakistan and to fight against Pakistan on conventional grounds. A reason why they have been engaged in such activities across the LoC.
Nevertheless, the proposed remedy to reduce LoC violations is to implement UN sponsored plebiscite in Kashmir so that the Kashmiri people can use their right to self-determination in accordance with what they deem fit. The UNCIP can also play a vital role to resolve the Kashmir conflict through conciliation and ensuring cessation of exchange of fire across LoC. Moreover, confidence building measures should resume to eliminate or lessen the mistrustful relation of both neighbors as sometimes even a small statement from a political leader from either side has resulted in firing and shelling without any apparent reason.
In 2015 then Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif in his address to the 70th session of the UN General Assembly proposed an expansion of the ‘UN military observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to monitor the ceasefire’ in order to reduce the LoC violations. He said, ‘we propose that Pakistan and India formalize and respect the 2003 understanding for a complete ceasefire on the LoC in Kashmir’. He further expressed his desire to normalize critical circumstances across the LoC but India seemed reluctant to even discuss it.
In this case, it is necessary for India to mediate with Pakistan so that the exchange of fire can be halted in a bid to avoid any inadvertent escalation of crisis. Pakistan and India should negotiate and initiate peace talks to avoid violation along the LoC. The leadership in both countries must formalize 2003 Ceasefire Agreement to avoid jeopardizing the future peace process.