National Interest: On the LoC, in fact
Before we decide whether to be liberal or jingoistic following the recent incidents on the LoC, it might be useful to check out the facts. Because facts are important even in times when the idea in many of our TV studios and among some of the commentariat seems to be, don't confuse me with facts.
That two Indian soldiers, or rather non-commissioned officers (NCOs), were ambushed, killed and their bodies mutilated, is indeed a fact. That a Pakistani NCO was killed, and another — probably a commissioned officer — grievously injured in another sector along the LoC, is a fact as well. That these hunting missions — that sometimes involved, sadly, head-hunting — were not uncommon along the LoC in the past, is a fact. That there has been heavy and frequent exchange of fire along the LoC in recent weeks, is also a fact. Then what are we arguing about?
Let's also examine some currently growing beliefs now and put them to the test of facts. That there was never such a thing as a truce on the LoC, that it has always been ablaze. That there has never been a peace dividend and there never will be, so why waste time. That infiltration, militancy and jihadi propaganda have continued unabated. And the hope that the truce will give India's army some respite to take some of its units back to its conventional deployment or training areas, and the Pakistanis the reassurance to move some of theirs to their more problematic western borders, is a sham.
These are the beliefs on which much of the angry commentary has been based over the past fortnight. Now check these out against facts, some of which I have put together with the help of my colleague and Associate Editor Muzamil Jaleel, who is not just brilliant and brave but also a kind of widely acknowledged dean of the school of Kashmir reporters. This is the 10th year since the truce negotiated between Musharraf and Vajpayee (in case the BJP needs a reminder). Each year since then, the number of armed forces casualties in all of Kashmir, and particularly on the LoC, has fallen. In all of 2012, for example, the army lost two lives on the LoC (in fact, in all of Kashmir), while during the peak years before the truce, when the LoC was really ablaze, we lost one or two every day and so, for sure, did the Pakistanis, if not more. The Indian soldier has never been anything but aggressive and effective on the LoC, and again, in the more critical flashpoints along the LoC, India has the tactical advantage, contrary to self-flagellating propaganda by some self-styled apologists. In 1965, '71, and many minor engagements since then, we have successfully nibbled territories while it was open season along what used to be the Cease Fire Line (CFL), "rationalising" our tactical posture to our advantage. Siachen is one of the more notable examples of this "active" soldiering. Please see the table that demonstrates three things: that the armed forces casualties have consistently fallen since 2006. In fact, in the years just preceding the ceasefire, the army had lost anything between 400-600 lives per year, and that is not counting the Kargil surge of 1999. Of course, the Pakistanis suffered even greater loss of life. So in its 10th year, the ceasefire has already saved a minimum of 8,000-10,000 soldiers' lives on both sides.