(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.