The Ramzan ceasefire was a reluctant attempt by the BJP at coalition appeasement, which has failed miserably.
Exactly a month after it was announced, the government of India has called off the cessation of proactive counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir, or the internal ceasefire in Kashmir.
The decision shouldn’t surprise anyone as this was a ceasefire waiting to collapse. The ceasefire had no ownership, nor did it come with a well-thought out pathway to peace or dialogue in Kashmir. There were no clearly defined objectives, nor was New Delhi willing to put its political weight behind the initiative. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s ceasefire offer was a short-term strategy to silence the increasing demands from its coalition partner in Jammu and Kashmir, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The Ramzan ceasefire was a reluctant attempt by the BJP at coalition appeasement, which has failed miserably.
The ceasefire has been called off in light of increasing violence and killings in Kashmir. In the past month, since the declaration of the unilateral ceasefire, there have been attacks on security forces, the kidnapping and killing of army soldier Aurangzeb, the death of a Kashmiri man during a recent clash between civilians and security forces and the gunning down of senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari.
Bukhari’s killing appears to have been the last nail in the coffin. If the ceasefire had sustained without any untoward incidents, the government would most likely have continued it at least for the duration of the upcoming Amarnath yatra. But the ceasefire wasn’t working and hence the decision to call it off should not suprise anyone. The question that must be asked is not why it has been called off, but why it failed so miserably.
No prior consultations
That the ceasefire has not been extended beyond Ramzan is unfortunate, but it was amply clear from the beginning that the ceasefire wouldn’t survive for too long. The dominant terrorist group in the Valley, the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, had summarily rejected the move, as did the Kashmiri separatist camp. The separatists called the ceasefire offer a “cosmetic measure” and a “cruel joke on the people of the Valley”. The chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, Yasin Malik, had pointed out that “until a comprehensive plan is made to resolve the Kashmir issue, these cosmetic things won’t work. It will not make any difference on the ground”.
Prior to the ceasefire offer, the security forces had carried out several hard-hitting operations under what has been termed ‘Operation All-Out’. New Delhi’s policy towards the ‘azadi movement’ in Kashmir has been equally unrelenting. Given how doggedly New Delhi went after the Kashmiri separatists, did it expect them to respond positively to the ceasefire offer?
If so, why did the BJP government go ahead and announce the ceasefire without having consulted and taken the various stakeholders, without whose support the ceasefire would collapse as it has now, on board? It was either an amateurish decision or a half-hearted move to keep the PDP in good humour. Either way, the lack of prior consultations and consensus building ensured that the Ramzan ceasefire became a spectacular failure.
No support from Pakistan
The agreement by the Indian and Pakistani militaries on May 29 to abide by the 2003 ceasefire agreement has also collapsed despite several attempts to sustain it. Over the past few weeks, ceasefire violations have been rising, and more significantly, both infiltration and infiltration bids have continued despite the internal and the bilateral ceasefires. Indian officials have stated that there were infiltration attempts almost every night in the past month.
Brace for more violence
The breakdown of the two ceasefires clearly means that we should expect more violence on the Line of Control/international border and inside Kashmir. Reports indicate that militant recruitment continued unabated even during the Ramzan ceasefire, which shows that the recruitment is likely to surpass last year’s figure of 126. Even though ceasefire violations on the LoC and IB reduced over the past month, the breakdown of the ceasefires would most likely prompt an uptick in violations. Terrorist infiltration is likely to continue, leading to more attacks on security forces and civilian targets.
Happymon Jacob teaches international relations at Jawaharlal Nehru University.