Ceasefire Violations: India Likely To Suggest Monitoring Mechanism

7 September 2015

New Delhi: India is likely to suggest a monitoring mechanism and seek greater interaction at the sector commander level between the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Pakistan Rangers to check ceasefire violations by Pakistan, which have increased since last year. A meeting between senior BSF officers led by its director general and the 16-member delegation of the Pakistan Rangers led by its director general (Punjab) is scheduled in the Capital from 9 to 13 September. The meet will take place in the backdrop of the two countries cancelling the dialogue between their national security advisors that was to take place on 23-24 August in New Delhi due to ceasefire violations. Then both sides had blamed each other and claimed they were only responding to provocations from the other. Till now, no such arrangement exists. Such meetings happen only on request from either side as part of efforts to reduce tensions during such ceasefire violations. In addition, the security situation along the border is reviewed when heads of the two forces along with senior officers meet once every six months. 'Pakistan points a finger at us and we point a finger back at them. The issue at hand is how to stop the violations. We would like a monitoring mechanism that would clearly establish what happened and how we can stop it,' a government official said. A second government official said India would not agree to any United Nations (UN) monitoring or any other third-party monitoring of the ceasefire violations at the border. 'We are clear on this-no UN observers and no third party. Any issues between India and Pakistan will be sorted out bilaterally,' the second official said. Former BSF chief Ajai Raj Sharma strongly supported the move to put in place a mechanism involving local security officials. 'After all they are the officers on the ground and know the situation better than anybody else. So there should be regular meeting and interactions among the sector commanders who monitor the situation on a daily basis,' Sharma said. The home ministry's Border Management Division that is preparing the groundwork for the BSF-Pakistan Rangers meeting is keen that a formal arrangement at the level of sector commanders be put in place where the two sides can contact immediately to stop ceasefire violations, particularly the heavy shelling that Pakistan has been resorting to since last August. 'If one analyses the situation along the international border, specially since last year, it will reveal the urgent need for some kind of an arrangement between the two sides to ensure that peace prevails along the border. Now, this can be in form of some kind of monitoring mechanism at the level of senior officers from both sides. The details will have to be worked out by director generals of the two forces. But there is a view that meeting of DGs once every six month is not effective,' said a home ministry official who did not want to be identified. Ceasefire violations by Pakistan have set new records since the National Democratic Alliance came to power last year. Ceasefire violations between 1 January and 31 July 2015 stood at 192, while in 2012 and 2013, taken together, there were 169. Between January and December 2014, such violations had risen to 430. Parliament too took note of this when minister of state for home affairs Haribhai Chaudhary revealed the rise in violations. According to Prakash Singh, a former head of the BSF, there is an urgent need to have more stringent and regulated mechanism to check unprovoked firing from both sides. 'Apart from the understanding between the BSF and the Rangers, India needs to ensure that there is an effective and clear direction from the top political leadership in Pakistan to improve situation along the border.' With the UN General Assembly session scheduled to begin on 15 September in New York, the Indian establishment is certain that the Kashmir dispute will find mention in the speech of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. An agreement at the BSF-Border Rangers' meet in New Delhi could help the government mitigate some of the political fallout to references on Kashmir. Government officials feel that the firing at the border is aimed at providing cover fire for militants to infiltrate as well as to bring international focus back on the Kashmir dispute as the key source of instability and terrorism in South Asia. India has viewed the 2003 ceasefire agreement along the international border and the de facto line of control border as a key confidence-building mechanism between the two countries.