ISLAMABAD — Recent clashes by Indian and Pakistani forces are not likely to escalate further, analysts say, as both nations have a stake in calming matters along the Line of Control (LoC) bifurcating Kashmir between the two rival states.
“I think there are strong incentives on both sides to control the escalation in this case. Delhi and Islamabad have only recently started to mend their ties. There are incentives on both sides to contain this issue and nip it in the bud,” says Harsh Pant, Reader in International Relations, Department of Defence Studies, King’s College, London.
He said despite the heightened emotions on the Indian side due to allegations that the bodies of Indian soldiers were mutilated, “Delhi will have to carefully balance its anger with the long-term stability in the subcontinent. ... there will be a slowdown in the broader normalization of ties, that’s for sure.”
Despite a cease-fire being in place along the LoC, there are occasional clashes, normally involving artillery, but it is unusual for there to be casualties because one side intruded into opposing territory, and matters are generally quickly resolved by opposing senior officers.
The initial Jan. 6 clash, therefore, was somewhat unusual.
A statement from the Pakistan military’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said Indian soldiers had raided the Sawan Patra Pakistani post leading to injuries and the death of one soldier, Naik Aslam, but were repulsed, leaving behind a “weapon and a dagger”.
When contacted, a spokesman for ISPR said no further details were available but that “the heads of the military will get in touch with each other and sort things out.”
At that point it appeared the situation would de-escalate, but the alleged Pakistani raid on the night of Jan. 8 has inflamed the situation.
A spokesman from ISPR also was unable to provide any further details regarding this incident beyond what had been revealed in a press release, in which a Pakistani military official dismissed the Indian allegations as “propaganda” and said it was an attempt to divert attention from the Indian raid.
A later ISPR statement said that “A Pakistan Army soldier, Havildar Mohyuddin embraced Shahdat [was martyred] due to unprovoked firing by Indian troops at Hotspring Sector in Battal at 1440 hours today [Jan. 10]. Indian troops resorted to unprovoked firing at a Pakistani Post named Kundi. Further details to follow.
Former Australian defense attaché to Islamabad, Brian Cloughley, said the truth behind the incidents may never be known, but flatly rejected the allegation that Pakistani soldiers may have mutilated the bodies of Indian soldiers claimed to have been killed.
“If these people had ever seen the body of someone killed in an ambush they would know that it would be torn to bits by a hail of lead. In any event, in an ambush nobody has time to hang around slitting throats or whatever. You fire like crazy for maybe half a minute then get the hell out of it, taking a prisoner if you can,” he said.
An effective way of avoiding future potential flare-ups lies with the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), which was formed in 1948 to observe and report cease-fire violations, he said.
“The whole affair simply reinforces my long-held contention that the U.N. Mission in Kashmir should be given authority to do what their remit lays down. In fact, it would make total sense for all Indian and Pakistani troops to withdraw from the LOC, which would then be patrolled by U.N. forces. There would be no clashes, then,” he said.
Cloughley does not believe that India will agree to Pakistan’s suggestion that UNMOGIP investigate the matter despite it being “the obvious course,” as “neither side will ever agree on what did or didn’t happen.”