Q & A with Sushant Sareen, Consultant, Pakistan Project, at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi
What is your take on the recent brutal killing of two jawans at the LoC?
Given the kind of circumstances that exist in LOC, a ceasefire violation is a routine. It happens everyday. Both armies do it regularly to show strength and settle some score. It generally doesn’t become such a big issue. Television channels don’t even cover it. Newspapers might write a paragraph or so, but it never becomes a big story. But what happened in this particular case that invoked such furore is that the two jawans were brutalised, the bodies were mutilated and the heads were cut off and taken away as trophy. This is very shocking. Now it turned into a subject where the government can’t remain silent. It has to take a step.
Since the government has to take a step, what do you think is ideal? A diplomatic move or a military retaliation?
There has to be retaliation. It’s a matter of izzat for the Army now. All our integrity is now attached with the subject. For the army, there is always an attempt to even out the score. But diplomacy will, of course, take over. Once there is a sense of retribution from both the sides and both think probably they have extracted everything they could, there will be a flag march and some symbolic gesture to mend the dented diplomatic relationship. The only problem this time is that de-escalation will be a bit tough because everything happened in front of public eyes. As long as it is happening in a remote part of LoC and there is no news coverage of it, there will be no exposure. But this time everything is in the public domain and it sparked a huge public outcry. The public sentiment is hurt this time. Other than that, as far as the military government in Pakistan is concerned (I use the word consciously), if they don’t take a blow back in their chin, the situation will not de-escalate very easily.
Talking about public sentiment, how would you justify the jingoistic demand of a military retaliation that is being voiced across the country after this incident?
You cannot allow somebody to get away with such a crime. When the public voice is articulating itself, it cannot be ignored. It’s an outpour of outrage. This sentimental outcry will not be in a refined way. You may call it jingoistic but it is justified because of the way these two soldiers were tortured. This is the way the public will react. But this should not be the only thing we read from this. What the public is trying to say is that you cannot let the other side get away with such a barbaric attack. If nothing else, give a bloody nose to the other side so that they think twice before indulging in this kind of activity again.
To avoid further bloodshed if a diplomatic position is required, what do you think should be the key steps?
A solely diplomatic way is not going to be a solution. It will always take place in a parallel track. At the level of diplomats they will issue protest. Written complaints. There will be statements from political outfits. It’s fine. But there has to be a deal between the two army only after that the diplomacy can take over.
Right after the incident Pakistan stopped bus services and business along the LoC. How would you react to that?
Pakistan had to take some kind of step after this and this is the step they have taken. Pakistan is a country that has always lived in denial. For the longest time they denied any kind of involvement in Kashmir, for 10 years the denied involvement in Afghanistan. So this is just a populist measure from the Pakistan side.