It was an unwarranted utterance from the Indian army chief, to say the least. His assertion that the year-long ceasefire is holding on the Line of Control because India negotiated it from a position of strength is devoid of any essence. It is recent history that New Delhi was bogged down in a deep border crisis with Beijing, and its forces were on the receiving end in early 2021. In such a timeframe, the ceasefire was out of mutual consensus between India and Pakistan, as it was meant to scale down tensions across the disputed Kashmir Valley. And if any party was really generous and forthcoming in making peace, it was Pakistan which has always extended an olive branch for resuming talks across the board. And, this indeed, reflected its confidence in the armed forces and the strength of diplomacy. General MM Narvane has unnecessarily drawn flak by taping chauvinism, and he would be better advised to professionally address the issues for furthering peace and security.
DG ISPR Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar was prompt in highlighting the issue in its totality, as he said that Pakistan had only agreed to the ceasefire due to its concerns for the safety of the people of Kashmir living on both sides of the LoC. This is, indeed, the factual position. A lot of behind-the-scenes diplomacy had gone into play to strike the uneasy peace, and it also involved the good offices of friendly Arab states. Closely following on the ceasefire were resolutions from the Pakistan Army chief and the Prime Minister that geo-economics will be the way to go, and Islamabad is ready for a dialogue on all issues. To further the debate, COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa told the Islamabad Security Dialogue in March 2021 that if India and Pakistan start talking, the Kashmir issue can wait for a while so that other contentious issues are ironed out. This was from a position of strength, and it is high time Gen Narvane would have sincerely reflected on it.
India and Pakistan are in a new era of multilateral diplomacy. It is incumbent upon them to address outstanding disputes, and let peace be the modus operandi of their perpetual interaction.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2022.