Amid earlier news reports that BJP was against ceasefire in J&K during Ramadan and intelligence agencies were in favour of it, the Centre has sprung a surprise by announcing a ‘conditional’ ceasefire during the month of Ramadan. The conditional ceasefire primarily entails security forces not to launch operations, but reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people. J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has tweeted, “I wholeheartedly welcome the Ramadan ceasefire and would like to thank Narendra Modi ji and Rajnath Singh ji for their personal intervention. My gratitude also to the leaders and parties who participated in the All Party Meeting and helped build consensus towards this announcement.”
Mehbooba Mufti had earlier called for a unilateral ceasefire, the pros and cons of which had been brought out in these columns on May 12 (https://hillpost.in/2018/05/why-mehbooba-muftis-call-for-unilateral-ceasefire-during-ramadan-is-mischievous/110426/) including that terrorists would reject such move and likelihood of terrorist attacks going up during Ramadan. While National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah welcomed the decision of the ceasefire, Omar Abdullah tweeted, “On the demand of all political parties (except the BJP, which had opposed it) the Centre has announced a unilateral ceasefire. Now if the militants don’t respond in kind they will stand exposed as the true enemies of the people.” For benefit of Omar Abdullah, terrorists opened fire on an army patrol in Shopian District hours after the ceasefire was announced. The Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), as expected, rejected the ceasefire (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/exchange-of-fire-in-shopian-after-ceasefire-announcement/article23904087.ece). But there were no tweets by Mehbooba, Farooq or Omar condemning the terrorists who opened fire or the LeT as “true enemies of the people”.
The Home Ministry has stated that the decision was taken “to help the peace loving Muslims observe Ramzan in peaceful environment.” However, how the environment will remain peaceful with terrorist organizations rejecting the ceasefire is questionable, especially with calls for more attacks during Ramadan by terrorist organizations in previous years. As is usual in such decisions, scribes and scholars have got busy supporting the government move with arguments that: ceasefire indicates resolve to seek peace, displaying confidence, not weakness; no cordon and search / search and destroy operations are permitted but terrorists displaying weapons will be acted against; defensive operations will continue, as will counter-infiltration at the LoC, and; politicians and administrators must step forwarded and interact with the public.
Above arguments are good semantics and equally relevant to non-ceasefire period as well, except that security forces cannot pre-empt any terrorist action; not launch cordon and search to gain intelligence or act upon actionable intelligence because terrorists have not opened fire or displayed weapons. Doesn’t this militate against the same scholars and scribes writing that terrorists should not be able to get the edge? Pray how do they achieve that when the ceasefire just did that? It actually amounts to tying the hands of the security forces behind their backs and ordering them that terrorists should not be permitted to consolidate and get the upper edge. This is even more relevant with ample evidence, including videos, how locals are helping terrorists in the Valley.
Operation ‘All Out’ had virtually wiped out the entire leadership of the LeT and HM. The ceasefire is an excellent opportunity for them to regroup for striking against the Indian State – a readymade recipe for Pakistan’s ISI in connivance J&K politicians. Terrorists can openly regroup and avoid action as long as they do not display weapons in the open. The argument that security forces would continue to collect intelligence for future operations after the ceasefire is terminated holds little water since the hardcore shift locations every few hours and a month-long ceasefire will enable them organize their hideouts better. What the ceasefire will result in is wiping out the gains of Operation ‘All Out’. No doubt the security forces will regain the same level of crippling terrorists again – but at avoidable cost of lives, while the same cycle is repeated over, and over again.
The media, especially social media, is alive with lambasting anyone not supporting the ceasefire but the bottom-line is that no individual or organization can improve without analyzing and absorbing criticism. It would be foolish to think that Pakistan would relent on its proxy war in J&K because of Nawaz Sharif’s admissions or the ceasefire, given the expanding support base they have so systematically carved out in the Kashmir Valley. If the PDP, the NC and their administrations were interested to reach out to the public to normalize the situation, that would have happened long time back.
Musharraf’s Kargil intrusions had two aims: first, to isolate Siachen for subsequent attack, and; second, reduce the pressure on terrorist in Kashmir Valley – that were subjugated to the level as has happened with Operation ‘All Out’ now. This time, Qamar Javed Bajwa’s task is easier because he has more indigenous terrorists in J&K and larger support base. That is why while incumbent DGP has no option but to remain mum, a former DGP J&K has spoken against the ceasefire decision. Readers can draw their own conclusions.