The “DGMO” Diaries

(The title for this post is inspired by Michael Krepon’s 2011 blog article titled “DGMO” highlighting the importance of DGMOs to Strategic Stability in South Asia.)

The long-awaited meeting between the Directors General of Military Operations of both India and Pakistan will finally take place on December 24, 2013. General Amir Riaz, DGMO Pakistan Army extended an invitation to his Indian counterpart Lt. Gen Vinod Bhatia on December 17, 2013. The invitation comes after a three-month hiatus following the Sharif-Singh meeting in New York where a DGMOs meeting was first proposed. The idea was reinforced further at a meeting between Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz. The purpose of the meeting envisioned by the Prime Ministers is to “strengthen the mechanisms to ensure ceasefire on the Line of Control.”

The announcement finally put an end to months of speculation about Pakistan’s sincerity in pursuing CBMs with India. Centered mainly on Indian claims of 150 ceasefire violations and alleged raids conducted by its Army’s Border Action Teams, Pakistan’s very sincerity towards the peace process was in doubt. From an Indian perspective the DGMOs meeting was the single most important step required to take the bilateral dialogue forward. It blamed Pakistan for failing to recognize the importance of such a meeting and hence slowing down progress in bilateral relations. The Pakistan Army was accused of “not helping the cause to improve ties” that were affected following the incidents at the LoC. According to an Indian official, “… holding up of DGMOs’ meeting is not a positive sign. Pakistani side is not showing much interest in holding the meeting.” Even after Pakistan’s new Army Chief took charge there rumours in India about Pakistan trying to evade the DGMO meeting to avoid discussing repeated ceasefire violations along the Line of Control.

More recent reports however suggested that the delay was being caused by both India and Pakistan and that the DGMOs would meet when they feel the need for it. According to Indian Defence Minister AK Antony on December 16, 2013, “The two DGMOs are talking and let them talk. Whenever they feel, they will meet. It is up to them.” Ironically the comments were made on the sidelines of a function celebrating India’s victory in the 1971 war with Pakistan.

Another interesting part of the unfolding DGMO saga was India’s dismissal of a Pakistani suggestion to include civilian diplomats in the proposed DGMO meeting. India maintains the LoC is a military problem and should therefore be solved between the two armies and also that there was no role for diplomacy in an “essentially military issue.” In an effort to convince India of the merits of civilian involvement in such a mechanism, the US also highlighted that such a method would afford the civilian government a greater say in issues that till now remain a domain of the military.

New Delhi’s point of view, however, remains that the two armies need to evolve protocols concerning behavior on the LoC, and that non-military officials would turn it into a diplomatic issue. Perhaps the Indian thinking emanates from the belief that diplomacy is merely a temporary substitute for military force and when it fails there will inevitably be recourse to military methods. Alternatively this may be the beginning of greater military socialization in South Asia, a phenomenon that theoretically becomes possible when a considerable degree of trust exists between two rivals. Although its too early to make any predictions about the outcome of the DGMO meeting it may well be a prelude to greater and much required military diplomacy in South Asia.

Posted in , CBMs, Conventional Forces, Defence, DGMO, India, India-Pakistan Relations, Kashmir, LoC, Pakistan

Amina Afzal

Amina Afzal

Amina Afzal is an Islamabad-based researcher with an MSc in Defence and Strategic Studies from Quaid-i-Azam University. She recently graduated from the Monterey Institute of International Studies with a certificate in Non-Proliferation Studies. She worked as a GRA for the CNS James Martin Center for Non Proliferation Studies.

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4 thoughts on “The “DGMO” Diaries

  1. Amina:

    Thanks for posting this, and for calling attention to an old post of mine.

    Analogies are very tricky — sometimes they’re spot on, sometimes inappropriate.
    For what it’s worth, the US and the USSR talked to each other on a regular basis — I forget whether semi-annually or annually — about incidents at sea. In 1972, Washington and Moscow signed an agreement to try to avoid these incidents, which were very risky. Back then our hulls were scraping on and under the water. (A pattern that now seems to be emerging as China’s Navy operates off-shore, especially in the South China Sea.)

    The 1972 INCSEA agreement, which remains in effect, proved useful in reducing dangerous practices at sea, and in discussing events when they occurred (on a less frequent basis). This channel was strictly military to military. Back in the first Reagan administration, when US-Soviet relations deteriorated badly, the US Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, wanted to cut off these talks to protest Soviet actions. The US Navy leadership balked, and got its way. Naval officers on both ends wanted to keep this channel as free as they could from the vicissitudes of diplomatic relations. By maintaining this line of communication in a highly professional manner, military officers succeeded in keeping incidents down, clarifying the circumstances behind incidents, and even occasionally (and quietly) disciplining an officer for wrong-doing.

    So, from my experience, which is distant from South Asia, I can see the value of military-to-military channels, even when they don’t work as intended. But I can also see the value of creating a joint civil-military channel for regular dialogue between serving officers and diplomats. Why do this only in Track II?


  2. The civil-military relations in India, over the years, have strained. Since the 1962 Sino-India war the political leadership has come under severe criticism for unnecessarily interfering in military matters. Afterwards several wars with Pakistan have cemented this belief. From the late 1980’s this civil-military dichotomy became more glaring over the issue of Siachen. There were occasions when the Indian military generals have publicly voiced their resentment to withdrawal of troops from Siachen. So the opposition to include civilians in DGMO’s meeting reflects the growing clout of Indian military.

  3. The skirmishes on the LOC this year riled public opinion in India and put Politicians on the defensive. For the first time in India’s history the Military was given freedom to act on the LOC as it deemed fit, without consulting the Defense Ministry, negating the advantages the Pakistani Military always had over its Indian counterparts, heavily weighed down by bureaucratic/democratic red tape.
    The language Military men speak is very different from that used by Diplomats and India was correct in wanting DGMO’s to meet and thrash out the problem, without having to carry the baggage of Diplomats. Once the message has been conveyed that giving covering Fire to militants infiltrating will draw an escalatory response that may be disproportionate, responsibility for action or inaction is clearly spelt out without ambiguity. The Salala tragedy on Pakistan’s western border was never a case of mistaken identity as claimed, just a simple message sent out not to give covering Fire to infiltrators.

  4. Any reference to salala is bound to yield the wrong conclusions for the Indian side. Any action on the LoC and IB will be responded to as if it were Newton’s third law. So the idea of “disproportionate” does not apply when it comes to Pakistan and India. It takes time for both sides to cool down after venting everytime such things escalate. Neither side gets cowed down by each other’s military response. The cooling off happens when handling the locally displaced people becomes too cumbersome. This is the factual reality of the situation across the LoC and IB.

    Pakistan cannot respond to the US in Afghanistan given the limitations and also the complex relationship with that country. Such things do not come in the Pak-India picture. DGMOs have to talk to each other to work things out. It has always been like this whether or not the diplomats are involved.

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