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CENTRE for POLICY ANALYSIS

 

ARTICLE
HIMANSHI SIDHARTH AND GARIMA SHARMA | 11 FEBRUARY, 2014

LoC: PERENNIAL DILUTION OF INDO-PAK DIALOGUE

Bilateral and cultural relations between India and Pakistan have never particularly deviated from the general matrix of perceived duplicity and tension in which they are steeped. But even the uneasy balance of cautious diplomacy between the two neighbours has been left thoroughly shaken after the border 'skirmishes' along the Line of Control (LoC) since mid-2013. This has led to a whole host of consequences spanning the entire political spectrum between the two countries, ranging from retaliatory measures from the Indian side and corresponding reactions from Pakistan.

LoC in historical perspective

The history of LoC, both in terms of security and human dimensions, has always represented and constantly revealed the flipside of the countless bilateral diplomatic overtures between the two countries, over the years. While unacknowledged, the fact remains that the idea of the LoC itself is symbolic of the consensually fatalistic relationship of conflict between the two countries. The Line itself was a product of international intervention in the escalating hostilities between the two countries on the issue of Kashmir, when the erstwhile ruler of the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir decided to sign the Instrument of Accession in favour of India, with Pakistan contesting the decision.

In response to the escalating hostilities, the United Nations Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP), in 1949, directed India and Pakistan to dispatch their military representatives to Karachi to discuss the demarcation of a Ceasefire Line. This subsequently resulted in the "The Agreement between the Military Representatives of India and Pakistan regarding the Establishment of a Cease Fire Line (CFL) in the State of Jammu and Kashmir", commonly known as "The Karachi Agreement" or "The Ceasefire Agreement". The Ceasefire Line, more than 500 mile long, was separated into eight sectors covering the areas of Manawar, Kotli, Punch, Uri, Tithwal, Keran, Gurias and Kargil. The Line was surveyed and demarcated using physical signs through collaboration between opposing commanders in each sector. Thus, the demarcation of a Cease Fire Line was completed by November 1949.

This line was later replaced by the Line of Control (LoC) in 1971. It resulted from the ceasefire reached after the 'Fourteen Days' War' over Bangladesh, on December 17, 1971. It has since been regarded as the de facto border between India and Pakistan. About a third of the former state of J&K came under Pakistan and came to be known as Pakistan Occupied Kashmir in India or Azad Kashmir in Pakistan.

What is significant is the fact that the demarcation of the LoC signaled the shift of the official Indo-Pak consensus from a bilateral but 'internationally brokered' Karachi Agreement to an entirely bilateral issue between India and Pakistan (Wirsing, 1998).

Legitimacy of LoC in the Indo-Pak deadlock

The shift in the status of LoC from an international to a bilateral problem has raised several issues, which have often had far-reaching consequences going beyond the diplomatic circles. The protracted nature of the bilateral conflict over LoC can be attributed to the differing and intransigent perceptions of the Kashmir issue, by India and Pakistan, and their proposals to resolve it. Pakistan views Kashmir as a "disputed region". It has rejected the plan for formalisation of status quo on LoC because that would still leave a predominantly Muslim Kashmir Valley in the Indian territory, leaving the acceptance of LoC as an international border a disputed issue. India is ready to accept LoC as an international border despite claiming the whole state as an 'integral part of India'. Even other countries like the UK and the US are ready to accept LoC as an international border.

This issue is distinct from the question of the legitimacy of international intervention in this problem. Here, while Pakistan endorses international intervention, India has taken the opposite stand. Islamabad wants the United Nations Military Observer Group (UNMOGIP) to play a greater role in settling the border issue. While Pakistan reports all ceasefire violations to the UNMOGIP, Indian military continues to impose restrictions on UNMOGIP's activities on its side of the fence. Even in the recent border skirmishes of 2013, Pakistan minister, Hina Rabbani called for a probe into the incidents of ceasefire violation by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Changing security dimensions: Walling the divide

However, the invariance of these two positions is precisely what prevents an amicable resolution in the context of changing security concerns, despite prolonged dialogue between the two countries over the ultimate status of Kashmir, as well as other confidence-building measures, which have occurred regularly since a ceasefire was instituted in 2003. In 2005, a bus service across the Line of Control (LoC) was launched. None of this has abated the military-security conflict. Recently, the LoC flare up in 2013 has left nine Pakistani soldiers dead and although this is not a significant number, growing tensions between the two countries could have serious repercussions on Pakistan's security.

The most recent security contention between the two countries is the construction of a wall around the LoC by India.

Prior to that, Islamabad had raised concerns about India's construction of a 340-mile-long fence which was finished by late 2004 on the pretext of preventing infiltration by militants from Pakistani side of the border. The then Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali had accused New Delhi of taking undue advantage of the 2003 ceasefire agreement to finish construction of the fence. The genesis of the issue goes back to 2000 when India started double-layer fencing along the LoC, in the aftermath of the Kargil conflict. However, the project had to be abandoned, with the labour engaged in the construction being targeted by Pakistani Rangers. It was finally completed following the 2003 ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan.

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