A day later, it also saw Prime Minister Manmohan Singh making his first comments on the incident, warning Islamabad that it cannot be business as usual and demanding that those responsible for beheading an Indian soldier be brought to book.
The sequence of events took most by surprise because around 5 pm on Monday, the Indian high commission in Pakistan issued a press statement announcing that the visa-on-arrival system for senior Pakistani citizens would start from Tuesday, signalling that the first part of the new visa agreement was being implemented.
But a different script was being written in New Delhi. The CCS was called to take stock of the flag meeting between local commanders of India and Pakistan earlier that day, as well as to assess the overall situation in the wake of growing anger among the troops and the strong political statements from the BJP.
It was also the day Sushma Swaraj had called for bringing back 10 heads from Pakistan in retaliation, echoing sentiments of troops in the 13 Rajputana Rifles regiment to which the two dead soldiers, Hemraj and Sudhakar Singh, belonged. The CCS meeting was to be held earlier but had to be rescheduled for 6.30 pm so that Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who was out of the city, could attend.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid was, however, in Bhutan to deliver the formal invitation to the King of Bhutan to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade. The decisions were taken in his absence with Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai representing the MEA, which was broadly of the view that this incident should not be allowed to derail the peace process.
In fact, Khurshid reflected this line while speaking to reporters in Bhutan right after the Army Chief’s pre-Army Day press interaction in Delhi. Khurshid said “enormous investment” had been made in the peace process and this incident should not affect it. However, the final assessment of the CCS was quite different.
There was no call or decision to step back from the peace process, but an endorsement of the view that not much was at stake in the process for the moment given the lull due to the approaching elections in Pakistan. And, perhaps, it was important for New Delhi too to give priority to the domestic repercussions of the LoC incident. In short, it was felt that this was not the time take a political risk over a peace process in which the Pakistani Army’s own commitment was questionable.
This, sources said, was borne out of the assessment that the Pakistani Army was indeed shifting gears in the domestic political arena and its assertiveness on the LoC should also be read in that context.
It was felt that the Pakistani Army was making certain political moves like the tacit backing of cleric Tahir ul Qadri, who could not have held a rally of 50,000-odd people without the Army’s nod, while making it more difficult for other political parties. This is complicated by the uncertainty over Pakistani Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s own plans as he nears retirement in September.
In this context, doubts were raised over whether the increased violence levels on the LoC had anything to do with the Pakistani Army’s domestic political moves. This logic was further buttressed by the tough stand that Pakistan took at the local commanders’ meeting in the afternoon, denying every bit that India said.
While taking into account the stakes involved in the ongoing peace process, sources said, the CCS was concerned by the fact that the civilian government in Pakistan, which has been the most enthusiastic in pushing forward the process, was quite satisfied playing second fiddle to the Army on the issue of violence along the LoC.
For that reason, it was felt that suspending the implementation of the new visa agreement and hardening the stand on sporting ties, an issue close to the civilian government, was important to drive home the point that the civilian government too has to discuss the stakes involved with its own Army.
On the political plane, the government leadership was also mindful of the fact that it did not want to cede the hardliner’s space to the BJP, at least not ahead of its Chintan Shivir in Jaipur this weekend.
In sum, the call was to pull back from the current levels of engagement without causing any damage to the overall process until a suitable response comes from Pakistan. The climbdown at the DGMOs conversation Wednesday could prompt a fresh assessment but only after some wait and watch.
There is election coming in Pakistan as well as in India. This must be a prelude to the Election to get support from different parties in the respective countries. This is my personal opinion
I find it hard to understand how the government can accept a situation when a soldier's head is not returned. How is it ok to sacrifice a soldier's head? Totally insensitive and absurd of the government to accept the situation.
Pakistanis come, cross the border, kill, mutilate the Indian soldiers and sometimes civilians too, spread terrorism, plant mines. India retaliates only to the extant of giving words of wisdom, DGMOs exchange words. Pakistan denies all charges. Politicians pacify the situation, Chief of Army staff visits soldiers house, calm starts to return and bilateral trade also starts. Who is the loser? India has lost the head of a brave soldier, guarding the border. If India demands the head and it is not given, how can we be complecent. We have got to raid and as per advise of sushma, get 20 heads for the two. Strike them to show them that we pinch them and give the message that complecency has a limit. Escalation of any form of terrorism can be given a befitting reply by Indians.
Pakistan's routine job is to bomb Indian cities, attack Indian parliament, behead Indian soldiers, Kill civilians. India's tough stand so far has been to cancel Visa on arrival for Senior citizens and issue statements like "this is totally not acceptable".
The report gives in minute detail how the present authorities in India weighed the situation. But does it mean that all these players of the Indian decision making team have no opinion of their own on the issue of the border brutality? Does it mean that they are only interested in reacting to the public opinion and the opinion of our jawans but have no views their own for determining some course of action? These are very sensitive issues and it will be better for the Indian Express to refrain from writing such reports just for the sake of filling up print-space.