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This is a game-changer because 'denial' has been an important unspoken feature in Indo-Pak terms of engagement over the last two decades.

What was new about the Indian Army's cross-LoC strike on Thursday was not the mission in itself, but the decision to make it official. And in doing so, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a decisive break from the unwritten codes of conflict management that guided the administrations of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh.

In fact, it's consistent with the steady shift to a new policy approach that actively derecognises any space for denial. This is a game-changer because 'denial' has been an important unspoken feature in Indo-Pak terms of engagement over the last two decades.

Denial gave both sides the space to start conversations and keep them going with the hope that one day the two sides will reach a pathbreaking agreement which will transform the relationship. While that deal eluded both sides despite the best of intentions, what it did in the bargain was to regularize certain norms of play. They were seen as transitory measures of conflict management until a new accepted normal could be achieved.

But if there's been any pattern to Modi government's approach to Pakistan, it's been a consistent rejection of this transitory arrangement.

LoC VIOLENCE 

Both sides had quietly come to accept a certain 'LoC Dynamic'. It was a level of tolerance where infiltrations would occur, India would protest, even retaliate on the ground. Some counter-attacks included crossing the LoC. But the levels of violence were kept 'local' and the official reaction would range from denial to downplaying an incident. The big idea was to not let a LoC incident derail the larger peace process. And if anything went beyond limits, the standard refrain was armies knew how to deal with it locally.

This was reversed today as India went public with its claim, asserting in its wake that old rules were no longer in play.

HURRIYAT ENGAGEMENT 

India's line on not letting Hurriyat have a seat on the Indo-Pak dialogue table was always clear. However, Pakistan did have its conversations with the Hurriyat, mostly in the garb of social and off-the-record interactions. Over a period of time, India stopped being edgy about it. The view was Hurriyat’s own political legitimacy had fallen, so such reach-outs were not serious enough to impact the bilateral process.

The current approach is to leave no space for Hurriyat, even if that means calling for official bilateral talks.

BACKCHANNEL 

This was a crucial element of continuity from Vajpayee to Manmohan Singh. The backchannel conversation was premised on deniability. Both India and Pakistan had agreed to explore every creative solution on Kashmir outside bureaucratic confines and political compulsions.

The Modi government gave up on this idea quite early. Everything was put on the official channel, which in effect put the brakes on any ambitious deal-making.

The government, by all indications, feels that this arrangement of living by denial for a larger cause has paid no dividends. Instead, in its view, Pakistan-sponsored terrorism flourished in different forms from the deniable Indian Mujahideen style operation to the big impact 26/11 attack.

Which is why this decision to openly claim Thursday's cross-LoC strike means more than just a military mission — it completes the circle on unbundling an old way of dealing with a neighbor-foe and drawing a new red line.

Source>> Economic Times

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