Guns don't kill. People do. The generals at Rawalpindi haven't heard of this famous American NRA bumper sticker. It seems so, given the way Pakistan's Additional Secretary in Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Pakistan army never speaks directly; it always uses 'civilians' to voice its views) proposed that India move all its 120-millimetre and heavier artillery guns at least 30 kilometres away from the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. That proposal was mooted in the sixth round of expert level talks between India and Pakistan at Islamabad last week.
"The move would help reduce casualties on both sides" was the reason proffered by Pakistani foreign ministry's spokesperson. Since India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire along the LoC in November 2003, artillery guns have rarely, if ever, opened up from either side. If these guns haven't fired for the last eight years, then they couldn't have caused 'casualties on both sides'. The spokesperson was perhaps referring to the casualties that would be caused by these guns going off some time in the future.
Red Herring: India has done the right thing by rejecting Pakistan's
proposal asking India to move all its 120-millimetre and heavier
artillery guns at least 30 kilometres away from the LOC.
To state the obvious, guns don't go off without human intervention. And that human intervention is triggered by some cause. To permanently prevent the guns from firing, you don't have to push the guns behind, but remove the cause which will act as trigger.
The triggering cause in this case is simple -- Pakistan army's continued attempts to send jehadi terrorists into Kashmir. In 2011, Pakistan violated the ceasefire 39 times in its attempts to push militants across the LoC. Reports suggest that nearly 100 trained militants are ready to attempt infiltration even in these snow-bound months. Only four months ago, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who has been a staunch advocator of pursuing peace with Pakistan, spoke of the continued presence of terrorist camps in Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Recent intelligence estimates talk of 49 terrorist camps operating in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, controlled directly by the ISI or ISI-affiliated jehadi groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
While infiltration persists and terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan remains intact, India can't afford to move any guns away from the LoC. Aided in no small measure by Indian army's counter-infiltration deployment at the LoC, 2011 was the most peaceful year in Jammu and Kashmir in the last 22 years. India can't take a chance to let the state regress into violence and conflict again.
Some analysts have portrayed India's rejection of Pakistan's proposal as Delhi's reluctance to even take baby-steps towards trusting Pakistan. They are wrong. If Pakistan is serious about building trust and confidence, then it should move by first dismantling the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan.
By not banning the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the front organisation of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Pakistan continues to violate the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 of December 2008. Islamabad could begin by at least bringing Hafiz Sayeed and other perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes to book. Let us not forget that the last time India blindly trusted Pakistan with Atal Behari Vajpayee's Lahore Bus Yatra in 1999, it resulted in Kargil.
Most of us remember the stellar role played by the heavy artillery guns in defeating the nefarious Pakistani designs in Kargil in 1999. These guns have been positioned in an inhospitable terrain at great human and material costs. If withdrawn, they can't be redeployed at a short notice. Considering Pakistan's unstable political and internal security situation, coupled with its abysmal relations with the United States, India can scarcely rule out any mischief by Pakistan army in the foreseeable future.
Pakistan also knows that India is unlikely to accept the proposal to withdraw guns from the LoC. A 'Red Herring' suggestion, it is meant to allow Pakistani generals and diplomats to indulge in some grandstanding. India has done the right thing by rejecting Pakistan's proposal. It must guard against this proposal gaining any further credence by highlighting the issue that prevents India from moving forward -- the issue of Pakistan-based jehadi terror.
Most of the civilised world today considers Pakistan to be an outlaw among nations. Let us then remember the warning contained in another NRA bumper sticker: "If guns are outlawed, then only the outlaws will have guns".
Sushant K Singh is Fellow for National Security at the Takshashila Institution and editor of Pragati-The Indian National Interest Review.