Jacob Explores Causes and Effects of Ceasefire Violations on the India-Pakistan Border

November 25, 2016

In a presentation at the Institute of Advanced Study and the School of Public Policy at CEU, Senior Global Challenges Fellow Happymon Jacob discussed his ongoing research on the reasons behind the rise in ceasefire violations (CFVs) on the India-Pakistan border. "There's policy paralysis around CFVs," Jacob said. "People don't understand the underlying reasons and misattribute the cause-and-effect relationship."

Jacob argued that CFVs are not just an effect of escalating tension between the two countries, as is commonly perceived, but a key contributing factor to escalation. To understand why there have been an increasing number of CFVs since 2008, Jacob turned to history. With a 3,323 kilometer-long border, of which 1,125 kilometers run through disputed territory in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the India-Pakistan border in J&K has been contested for decades. The first ceasefire was signed in 1949 under the Karachi Agreement; a second ceasefire was signed in 1972 as part of the Shimla Agreement after the Bangladesh War. After the 1972 agreement, Jacob explained, there was no mechanism to control hostilities. This led to an increasing number of firing incidents, and minor incursions into each other's territory during the 1980s and 1990s. In 2003, Pakistan offered a unilateral ceasefire to India that was accepted. The ceasefire agreement consisted of a phone call between the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) on both sides. There is still no written, signed document of the 2003 agreement.

Analyzing Indian and Pakistani newspaper reports since 2001, Jacob has compiled data on the number and types of CFVs. "Starting in 2008, we see the 2003 ceasefire agreement breaking down, and the number of CFVs rising again," stated Jacob. He noted that CFVs were concentrated in four to five locations along the line of control (LoC) as well as the international border (IB)/working boundary (WB) in Jammu and Kashmir. Official documents citing reasons for CFVs include phrases like "unprovoked firing," "cross fire," and "not stated" on the Indian side and similarly "unprovoked" and "not stated" on the Pakistani side. "What do these terms actually mean?" asked Jacob.

Through dozens of interviews with retired and current military and government officials in India and Pakistan, Jacob has compiled a plethora of reasons for CFVs. One key reason is a lack of institutional mechanisms. Forces on the ground are unsure of which agreement to follow. "Should they follow rules from the Karachi Agreement, the Shimla Agreement or the unwritten 2003 ceasefire agreement?" he asked. Along with confusion about the ground rules, there are no joint standard operating procedures to handle villagers living along the border. "One Indian interviewee told me he spent two days trying to reach his grandmother, who lived only 500 meters away on the other side of the border with Pakistan," recalled Jacob.

Another important reason for CFVs is related to military culture. "Organizations have a certain pre-determined and culturally-induced way of behaving in certain contexts," explained Jacob. Citing a theme from interviews, Jacob described the dynamics of "moral ascendency" as a key variable related to CFVs on both sides. Caught in the midst of a national political standoff, Indian and Pakistani forces "feel pressure to show others that they are the better army." The impulse to achieve moral ascendency coupled with psychological factors, such as the hardship of serving in a difficult post and having to prove one's mettle in battle, contributes to the rise in CFVs.

While Jacob acknowledged the existence of other causal factors like terrorist attacks and nationalist politics, he argued that they "do not tell the full story" about CFVs. The many factors influencing CFVs have led to escalation that can be deliberate, inadvertent, or accidental. "This is different from the Cold War literature on escalation," emphasized Jacob. "In that context, escalation was essentially seen as a bargaining tool between the key actors of the central balance. We're seeing that this is not the case in South Asia."

Jacob concluded that he believes there is a strong correlation between CFVs and escalation. "So far, the wrong diagnosis of the causes and effects of CFVs has led to wrong policies," he said. "In my research, I hope to identify more accurately the reasons behind CFVs and their impact on the India-Pakistan conflict."

The Global Challenges Fellowship assembles scholars from rising non-Western powers to explore questions in the humanities or social sciences relevant to the most pressing public policy challenges of the 21st century. The Global Challenges Fellowship is generously supported by Volkswagen Stiftung.