The number of ceasefire violations (CFVs) in Kashmir has sharply increased in recent years, and even more dramatically since 2017.1 India and Pakistan have not fought each other openly since the 1999 Kargil conflict and have oscillated between military tension and peace talks,2 but the growing number of violations since 2013 threatens to push the countries back to the dangerous posturing of the late 1990s and early 2000s. 

The government of India has informed the Lok Sabha (India’s lower house of parliament) that 881 ceasefire violations took place in Kashmir in 2017, compared to only 449 in 2016. Of these 881 incidents, 110 occurred along the international border (which Pakistan calls the working boundary) and 771 along the Line of Control (LoC)—the de facto border that separates Indian- and Pakistani-controlled segments of the disputed territory.3 Figures provided by the Pakistani army in late October 2017 were even higher. The Inter-Services Public Relations office (ISPR), the media arm of Pakistan’s armed forces, counted 1,140 violations in 2017, compared to just 382 in 2016. Pakistan’s director general of military operations (DGMO) recorded 1,299 CFVs in 2017.4 Interestingly, written in the margins of the printout provided by the ISPR was, “Highest CFVs in 2017 any other year since 2003”—the date of the last ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan.

Christophe Jaffrelot
Jaffrelot’s core research focuses on theories of nationalism and democracy, mobilization of the lower castes and Dalits (ex-untouchables) in India, the Hindu nationalist movement, and ethnic conflicts in Pakistan.
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This article examines why the number of CFVs has risen so sharply in recent years, drawing on extensive interviews with dozens of key informants based in Pakistan.5 Scholars have recently argued that the variation in CFVs can be explained by local factors on either side of the border. While those factors undoubtedly play a role, the Pakistani perspectives presented here suggest that CFVs also reflect the quality of bilateral relations between India and Pakistan as well as the security policies and strategies adopted by their leaders. Leadership changes can have a material impact on the timing and intensity of CFVs.

Data on Violations

The salience of CFVs is growing as their number continues to increase. Indeed, this level of belligerence has been unprecedented following the post-2001 military buildup. By August, the number of CFVs registered in India for 2018 had already risen higher than the total number for 2017. The Indian minister of defense, Nirmala Sitharaman, told the Rajya Sabha (India’s upper house of parliament) that 1,432 CFVs had taken place, including 942 along the LoC and 490 along the international boundary.6 Casualties have increased, too. In 2017, thirty people were killed on the Indian side and forty-five on the Pakistani side (compared to forty-six total in 2016, which had been the highest figure since 2003).7 Regarding the current year, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs declared in October 2018 that CFVs over the first seven months of the year killed fifty-two people on the Indian side (including twenty-eight civilians, twelve soldiers, and twelve Border Security Force personnel) and injured 232 others8.

The accuracy of these data is impossible to ascertain—and the discrepancies between the ISMPR and DGMO figures show that different sources even in the same country can produce disparate data. In Pakistan, the army is in charge of the LoC, so any CFV is made public via military channels of communication, starting with the local commander and ending with the director general of the ISPR (DGISPR).9 In October 2017, the DGISPR proudly stated that “even the foreign affairs minister waits for my information.”10 Before issuing a press statement, the DGISPR takes no more than one hour to cross-check the information by asking the officer in charge of the nearest post whether it is correct.11 Then, he may ask for film to be made, in which case clips are released to the media after six to seven hours. Journalists covering Kashmir have widely testified that they had no access to the LoC and could go there only through military-guided trips.12 For independent sources, communication with locals is even more difficult because, in spite of the establishment of the Special Communications Organization after the 2003 agreement, only a “handful of places” got “access to internet and mobiles services,” according to Pakistani researcher Anam Zakaria. Some localities “don’t even have a landline connection,”13 and “the establishment controls communications, shutting it down whenever it likes.”14

Pakistani army communications regarding CFVs routinely emphasize civilian casualties. Their press statements offer details of the women and children who have been killed, which, like on the Indian side, is happening with greater regularity.15 Civilian casualties justify, on humanitarian grounds, official protests vis-à-vis the Indian government as well as in the international arena.16 More importantly, perhaps, civilian casualties play a role domestically in Pakistan. Contrasting the proximity of Pakistani civilians to the LoC with the buffer India has created on the other side, journalist Khaled Ahmed remarked:

The population on the Indian side is about five miles removed from the border. Our people, even now, live on the border. So, when there is fire, it hits their house and people get killed. That’s when the army calls in the television channels and they record it. So, I think that it’s the army which chooses when to call in to show the damage or somebody who has died. This is when we get in and report.17

When pressed on whether there is a threshold under which an incident would not get reported, Ahmed replied:

I think when there is visible damage then the army can actually get us to record it and show it, because that feeds into the public view of India very effectively. And they always say that it is one sided, but they also add that we have retaliated and damaged a lot of things on the other side. You don’t know whether they do or not but they always say that “we have effectively retaliated.” But they choose when we go in and report.18

The fact that casualties are not systematically acknowledged and publicized suggests that official data may underestimate the real numbers. Between September and January 2017, thirteen civilians were killed in Neelum Valley alone, according to oral testimonies.19

Civilians continue to live close to the LoC or the working boundary out of a desire to stay on their land, according to local politicians. For instance, Khawaja Asif, who was minister of foreign affairs at the time of interviewing, confirmed that his constituency in Sialkot, along the working boundary, refused to evacuate despite being hit with attacks repeatedly.20 Anam Zakaria’s  investigation shows that many people from the Neelum Valley “ran away to Muzaffarabad,” whereas others who stayed behind had simply no place to go—and no other means of subsistence other than their farms.21

Although the Pakistani army may instrumentalize civilian casualties in its public relations exercises regarding CFVs, that alone does not explain the substantial increase in reported deaths.

Searching for Explanations: From the Local to the Political

Indian scholar Happymon Jacob suggested in a remarkable recent study that local factors are the main variable of interest. Jacob wrote that “local military factors in the India-Pakistan border are in fact behind the recurrent breakdown of the 2003 agreement. That is, CFVs are generally not planned, directed, or cleared by higher military commands or political establishments, but are instead driven by the dynamics on the frontlines.”22 Among various local considerations, Jacob emphasized new defense construction projects.23 Indeed, most Pakistani interlocutors interviewed for this article agreed that local commanders have some degree of autonomy in determining their responses and that when a new post officer takes over, the other side usually tests the newcomer with periodic gunfire. The construction of new bunkers or the maintenance of old ones also offer opportunities for firing.24 But the use of mortars—increasingly frequent over the last couple of years—could not be initiated locally without some political clearance,25 even though this so-called caliber escalation can sometimes be initiated by post officers.26 

The conditions and consequences of the 2003 agreement evince the importance of political factors in CFV numbers. As Jacob points out, CFVs dropped dramatically from almost 5,800 in 2002 to four in 2004.27 All of the interviewees who brought up this agreement said that it had been made possible because, by 2003, then president General Pervez Musharraf had reduced the risk of CFVs through a determined political move. In response to Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s stipulated conditions for peace talks, Musharraf put a stop to cross-border infiltrations—which were clearly responsible for a large number of CFVs in the 1990s.28 At the time, according to Khurshid Kasuri, Musharraf’s minister of foreign affairs between 2002 and 2007, the Pakistani establishment thought that the Indian government was prepared for peace talks because the post-2001 military standoff between the two countries had gone nowhere.29 But the Pakistanis were also under massive U.S. (and British) pressure to curb activity on their side of the border.30

Riaz Khokhar, former foreign secretary of Pakistan, also said that the rapid decline in CFVs was “because of that understanding and because of the talks between Musharraf and Vajpayee and the assurance that he gave.”31 And on November 23, 2003, Pakistan’s then prime minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, announced a “unilateral cease fire.”32

Khokhar added that the 2003 ceasefire worked well up to a point, but it eventually fell victim to changes in both countries’ domestic politics. India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) returned to the opposition, where it criticized any potential compromise with Pakistan. Meanwhile, Musharraf was replaced by civilian rulers, who were similarly criticized by the army for any compromise with India. The 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai sealed the fate of bilateral talks.

But why have CFVs intensified so much since 2013?

Political factors in both countries are among the causes. As Jacob pointed out, “India asserts terrorist infiltration from Pakistan is the primary cause for CFVs,” because gunfire diverts the army’s attention from Islamists entering India.33 However, there does not appear to be a systematic correlation between gunfire and Islamists crossing the border. While Pakistanis interviewed admitted that this had been a strategy of the security establishment in the recent past, the flow of jihadists has drastically diminished since the early 2000s. According to Indian data, more than 1,000 jihadists a year attempted to cross the border in 2001 and 2002. But by the time CFVs began intensifying again, in 2014, there were only 221 or 222 attempted infiltrations.34 This reduction is, in part, due to India’s construction of an electric border fence (which remains incomplete),35 as well as the Pakistani army’s decision to concentrate more on the border with Afghanistan.

Yet infiltrations are still part of the story. At least, they are for the women of the Neelum Valley, who told Zakaria:

Our demand from the army is simply to stop mortar shelling and stop the mujahideen. But the army doesn’t take responsibility. They say the mujahideen hide from them and cross over. Of course, the army has helped control the mujahideen to some extent too. They pressured them to stop after the 2003 ceasefire and that’s why the firing halted. But today, they tell us the infiltration is no longer happening and we see it as a lie. After magrib (sunset), we see their vehicles.36

In the late 1990s, women protested, “demanding an end to infiltration and the return of peace to their homes.”37 Interestingly, similar movements have started again in 2013–2014, with dozens of women from Leepa Valley marching “up to the CO, the commanding officer in the area.”38

Even so, infiltrations cannot be seen as an independent variable. First, the motivation of the mujahideen—and the support they receive from their mentors, whether in jihadi groups or the establishment—seems to be a function of the situation on the other side. For instance, the July 2016 killing of Burhan Wani, a young commander in the Kashmiri movement Hizbul Mujahideen, resulted in additional infiltrations, because more people were prepared to take revenge and because Indian Kashmiris were more likely to welcome them. In fact, his death has been the cause and consequence of the deepening unrest in Indian Kashmir. He had joined the movement because tensions in the region were rising in response to New Delhi’s deployment of troops. His demise has resulted in even more agitation because he was very popular among the youth, as evident from his number of followers on social media. In that sense, there is a correlation between state repression in Jammu and Kashmir, the intensification of the insurgency, the additional infiltrations, and the resultant CFVs.

Infiltrations also partly depend on the strategy of the Pakistani establishment, as evident from their cutoff in 2003. If the infiltrations were stopped in 2003 by the Pakistani establishment, they may have resumed ten years later because the Pakistani army no longer wanted peace.39

According to some interviewees, the year 2013 was a milestone. Nawaz Sharif was elected prime minister and immediately expressed a desire to relaunch the India-Pakistan rapprochement that he had begun in the late 1990s, when he had invited Vajpayee to Lahore. The army had derailed those talks by starting the Kargil operation (which resulted in the Kargil War). In 2013, with a similar operation out of the question,40 the Pakistani deep state could only torpedo Sharif’s agenda by creating a volatile context through CFVs, putting pressure on the bilateral relationship and making peace talks unsustainable, according to journalist Imtiaz Alam.41 Talat Masood, an independent observer of India-Pakistan relations, concurred that the Pakistani army might have intensified CFVs during Sharif’s term to sabotage peace talks and the warmer economic relations Sharif wanted to promote with India.42 In that sense, Pakistan probably intends CFVs to play the same role as the attacks in Pathankot and Uri in 2016, when Sharif was still interested in talking with India. 

However, most interviewees attribute the recent rise in CFVs to the political motives not of Pakistan but of India. They believe that the election of the BJP’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 has made a significant difference, because India has initiated some of the CFVs and resorted to mortars more often. Some of the interviewees consider Ajit Doval, Modi’s national security adviser, responsible for a new, aggressive anti-Pakistan policy.43 A retired senior diplomat confided: “My feeling is that it is part of the Modi and security pressure which is being brought on Pakistan. ‘If you don’t toe the line, if you don’t behave, then you are going to suffer more and more. [There] may be intrusive attacks into Pakistan.’”44

Here, the CFVs initiated by India are interpreted as punitive, when, on the Indian side, they are conceived as dissuasive. These may be two sides of the same coin, as evident from the surgical strike on September 28–29, 2016. According to Indian sources, this strike took place both in reaction to a jihadi operation ten days prior, which had resulted in the killing of eighteen Indian soldiers in Uri, and to damage camps from where other infiltrators might have come. That night, Indian commandos, using helicopters, allegedly crossed 3 kilometers beyond the LoC into the Bhimber, Hotspring, Kel, and Lipa sectors and killed thirty-eight militants and two Pakistani soldiers. This punitive operation was also supposed to dissuade the Pakistanis from continuing to initiate CFVs. While India might have initiated CFVs in the months that followed,45 these CFVs and the September 2016 surgical strike have apparently failed to deter Pakistan. In fact, the number of CFVs only started to decline in May 2018, when both countries negotiated a border truce.46 Another apparent reason for this truce was that Pakistan targeted more the Hindu-dominated district of Jammu, fostering the BJP supporters’ antigovernment protests, which convinced the ruling party to adopt a more accommodating approach.   

According to those interviewed, India did not resort to CFVs only to send punitive and dissuading messages to Pakistan; it also hoped “to divert the world’s attention from the massive human rights violations which are being reported,”47 because the UN had started to pay attention to the repression of the Azadi (freedom) movement in Jammu and Kashmir.48 These views are widely shared, including by anti-establishment journalists like Khaled Ahmed, who confided: “Now I think that the frequency has increased because of Modi’s policy of being right in front, and sometimes I think they even start it. In the past they have never started it.”49

While CFVs have intensified, why and how do tensions escalate and de-escalate?

De-escalation Rituals

Parallel to the elaborate choreography of border ceremonies carried out by Indian and Pakistani armies at the Wagah-Attari border post, where the colorful lowering of the flag has been practiced in tandem by both armies since 1959, there are rituals of escalation and de-escalation along the LoC too. Over time, the two sides have constructed a communications apparatus and series of mechanisms and procedures in order to operate and defuse tensions.

Traditionally, two mechanisms have been in place in order to avoid flare ups. First, sector commanders (lieutenant colonels or brigadiers on the Pakistani side) are supposed to hold regular meetings and exchange notes. These usually take place on the Wagah-Attari border, but, according to generals working under the DGMO, there are four other meeting points along the LoC.50 Second, a hotline has been introduced to allow the DGMOs of both sides to be in direct contact. The DGMOs or their representatives speak every Tuesday, but they may call each other whenever they fear some escalation. In fact, a call that takes place on any day besides Tuesday is usually a sign of some escalation.51

Regarding the escalation sequence, former foreign secretary Riaz Khokhar explained in detail that, over the LoC, India and Pakistan have a

very affectionate relationship. They fire one, we fire one. They fire two, we fire two. They’ll fire ten and we’ll fire maybe five. Because it’s not in our interest to see escalation. So that’s the way it’s working. . . . The hotline is used when both sides feel that things are getting out of hand. That’s roughly kind of it. But then there is, as I mentioned, a regular Tuesday call. . . . If it becomes worse, then they can of course call each other whenever they want to, but I think that’s rare.52

Sometimes, the ISPR finds it useful to publicize such Tuesday calls. For instance, in May 2018, after several weeks of regular CFVs that had allegedly killed thirty civilians on the Pakistani side, it issued a communiqué stating that the DGMOs had talked on a Tuesday to “fully implement the ceasefire understanding of 2003 in letter and spirit forthwith and to ensure that henceforth the ceasefire will not be violated by both sides.”53

When things don’t improve, CFVs also occur over the working boundary—a clear sign of escalation. Even before this happens, the diplomatic channel is used, as Khokhar explained: “We would call in the Indian high commissioner or the deputy high commissioner to protest. . . . The high commissioner, I would say, is rarely called. When the feeling is . . . the scale is larger, then the high commissioner is called. Normally it’s the number two, on both sides.”54

While army officials have always played a major role on the Pakistani side during these negotiations, some interviewees were under the impression that, on the Indian side, military officers have grown in influence over time. Some of them got this impression during the post-2003 agreement talks and judged that Indian officers tried to “sabotage” the negotiations over the Siachen Glacier, for instance.55

While high commissioners have been summoned on both sides recently because of the intensification of CFVs, their presence has made no real difference—as the ongoing escalation suggests. The conventional wisdom of the state of affairs on the Indian side, according to Pakistani observers, is well summarized by Khokhar:

At the moment [in October 2017], the main objective is to keep the line of fire very alive, very kicking and to . . . slowly, gradually escalate. And they’re actually trying to tempt us into taking countermeasures, which can then perhaps escalate further. I mean this is roughly the way people are thinking on this side. At the moment, for instance if you look at the last three or four days you will find at least a dozen violations a day.56

Most of the interviewees argued that the Pakistani army abstained from escalating to avoid killing Muslims in India and to maintain forces on their western front, the border with Afghanistan. This is likely the reason why Pakistan denied that the “surgical strike” publicized by India in 2016 ever took place: if it had not occurred, there was no need to retaliate.57

It remains to be seen whether multiplying CFVs will result in a new kind of escalation that the usual mechanisms will be unable to contain.


The ritualization of the India-Pakistan CFVs may be facing a new kind of challenge because of intensified military maneuvers on both sides. A whole set of factors explain the steep rise in CFVs, which now tend to occur between one-fifth and one-third of the days in a calendar year. CFVs not only arise from local circumstances but also reflect the quality of bilateral relations as well as the strategies of the respective rulers. Another driver of CFVs is mujahideen infiltrations—although they are less pronounced than in the early 2000s. These infiltrations are multifaceted and not unrelated to bilateral relations. Even if the spoiler theory does not explain the whole story, there is no doubt that the Pakistani establishment can try to sabotage peace talks between Islamabad and New Delhi by resorting to infiltrations, which will result in terrorist attacks and intensify CFVs.

But the Indian strategy may explain some of these CFVs too. Not only has the intensification of military operations in Jammu and Kashmir (including the fate of Burhan Wani) indirectly contributed to infiltrations and therefore to CFVs, but the government of India has also hardened its attitude toward Pakistan for political reasons—as evident from the official justification of the largely publicized September 2016 strike in Kashmir, which was supposed to teach Pakistan a lesson and reduce CFVs.58 Indian scholar Manoj Joshi concluded that the BJP’s rise to power has made a difference in that regard: “Once the BJP government came in, they had a counter-bombardment policy and it affected people on the border. But what exactly is their goal is not very clear.”59 Whatever the political factors at play, their importance invites paraphrasing of Carl von Clausewitz: if war is politics by other means, CFVs are war by other means—and therefore politics.

In spite of the intensification of CFVs, the UN has not come out with a definitive report, much less a resolution. This is a reflection of the total failure of the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). The Pakistani army reports any CFV to the UNMOGIP,60 and the group is supposed to “investigate alleged ceasefire violation complaints” and to report them to the UN in New York.61 But these data are not made public, and they would not be very reliable anyway since the 114 UN officials based in Pakistan cannot independently visit the LoC. New Delhi does not even accept UN observers on its territory (even though the UNIMOGIP is supposed to be headquartered in Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir, during the summer).62 The UNMOGIP is, indeed, in a peculiar situation since India considers that its mandate expired in 1972, after the Simla Agreement, but Pakistan does not.

While the UN cannot be part of the solution, other external players must still be taken into account. As Christopher Snedden, one of the best specialists on the Kashmir issue, has written, “India’s and Pakistan’s total inability to resolve the Kashmir dispute has two major ramifications. The first is that the [Jammu and Kashmir] people have been subjected to ongoing hardships and sufferings since 1947. . . . The second . . . is that a third party is clearly needed to break this deadlock.”63

Third parties played a very important role in the 2003 agreement and the fact that the United States and the West at large have gradually withdrawn from the South Asian scene probably partly explains the rise of the CFVs today. A priority for NATO countries should be to re-engage both neighbors, but this is very unlikely at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is cutting U.S. aid to Pakistan and losing interest in the region.

As a result, other third parties may emerge, including China, which is interested in pacifying a region where it is investing billions of dollars in the Belt and Road Initiative. It would be in China’s interest to see Pakistan redeploying some troops from the LoC to protect the Chinese workers in the country. Already, CFVs are much less frequent in the regions where thousands of Chinese workers are developing plants (like the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Plant) and building roads, as if this big neighbor/all-weather friend had to be spared.64

If China decides to help, it will first have to exert pressure on Pakistan, the country it can influence the most directly. In February, China sent a message to Pakistan by allowing its ally to be placed on a key global terrorism-financing watch list,65 possibly due to concerns of a jihadi connection with Uighur movements in China’s west.

For its part, the Pakistani army has suggested that it is ready for talks with India, possibly due to financial pressure. Pakistani Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa is reportedly worried about the economic crisis affecting the country. A victim of rising oil prices as well as declining exports and remittances, Pakistan has paid for its deficits by borrowing more money. The national debt has soared to $92 billion, and its servicing costs now represent 30 percent of the federal budget—roughly the same amount as the defense’s share. General Bajwa, it seems, considers the military spending from fighting on two fronts (Afghanistan and the LoC) to be unsustainable. This “Bajwa doctrine” is likely in tune with new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s priorities because he will need to somehow find the money for the Islamic welfare state he promised during the election campaign. In his victory speech, he told Indians: “If you take one step forward, we will take two steps forward.”66

In his congratulatory message to Imran Khan, Narendra Modi responded constructively, calling for dialogue. Imran Khan then sought a meeting between India’s and Pakistan’s ministers of foreign affairs, Sushma Swaraj and Shah Mehmood Qureshi, respectively. They were supposed to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. India had agreed to a meeting on September 26, but New Delhi called it off less than twenty-four hours after confirming. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs’ blamed two reasons: the “brutal killings” of Indian security personnel at the hands of “Pakistan-based entities” and the release of twenty postage stamps “glorifying a terrorist,” Burhan Wani—two things that had happened before the ministry had confirmed the talks.67

Some analysts have explained this U-turn by the fact that New Delhi belatedly realized that the government would celebrate the second anniversary of the surgical strike only three days after the meeting. Contradictory signals would be sent if peace talks were followed, that closely, by a grand commemoration of a transborder attack against Pakistan. This explanation is quite convincing but needs to be seen in a larger perspective: the BJP is now in election mode, and it is difficult to talk to Pakistani officials in this context because their country has played a major role in the party’s recent election campaigns. Narendra Modi, since his years as Gujarat’s chief minister, has probably referred to the “Pakistani threat” during his election campaigns more than any other Indian politician. Until India’s 2019 election, Modi will probably try consolidate his image as a tough leader defending his nation.


1 The 767-kilometer-long Line of Control (LoC) runs along Jammu and Kashmir until the Siachen Glacier. Below, for the Pakistanis, lies the 202-kilometer-long working boundary, which, for Indians, is already part of international border. Anam Zakaria points out that “The term working boundary is used by Pakistan to denote that while on one side there is the internationally recognized province of Punjab (in Pakistan), on the other side is a disputed territory (that both India and Pakistan claim).” See Anam Zakaria, Between the Great Divide (Noida, India: HarperCollins, 2018): xxix.

2 What happened in Kargil defies qualification, even though it is often considered a war: after Pakistani infiltrators (soldiers according to the Indian side, mujahideen according to the Pakistanis) built bunkers in the mountains above Kargil, on the Indian side of the LoC, during the spring of 1999, the Indian army had to dislodge them by force.

3 “230% Increase in Ceasefire Violations: Govt.,” Hindu, December 20, 2017,

4 Interviews with the DGMO and Major General Asif Ghafoor (DGISPR), Rawalpindi, October 25, 2017.

5 This article relies mostly on interviews that the author conducted in the framework of the King’s College–based “Mapping Borders: Ceasfire Violations Across the India-Pakistan Line of Control,” With help from Asma Faiz from the Lahore University of Management Sciences, dozens of politicians, senior diplomats, military officers, and journalists in Lahore, Islamabad, and Rawalpindi were interviewed, including: Ashraf J. Qazi (high commissioner to India, 1997–2002); Khurshid Kasuri (Pakistani minister of foreign affairs, 2004–2007); Riaz Khokhar (high commissioner to India, 1992–1997, and foreign secretary of Pakistan, 2002–2005); Salman Bashir (high commissioner to India, 2012–2014, and foreign secretary of Pakistan, 2008–2012); Shaharyar Khan (foreign secretary of Pakistan, 1990–1994); Syed Azmat Hassan (deputy permanent representative of the Pakistan mission to the United Nations, 1979–1980); Iqbal Ahmad Khan (former Pakistani ambassador to Bangladesh and Iran), and Shahid Malik (high commissioner to India, 2006–2012). Among currently serving military officers: Major General Asif Ghafoor (DGISPR) and three generals working under the DGMO. Among former military officers: Lieutenant General Talat Masood (secretary of defense production, 1988–1990). Among journalists: Khaled Ahmed (Columnist at Dawn, Indian Express, Newsweek), Imtiaz Alam (South Asian Free Media Association), Sirmed Manzoor (Freelance), Marvi Sirmed (Daily Times), Faisal Shakeel (Waqt TV), and Rana Jawad (Geo TV). Among politicians: Khawaja Asif (Sialkot MNA, defense minister 2013–2017 and minister of foreign affairs 2017–2018).

6 Vijayta Lalwani, “Data Check: Ceasefire Violations Along Line of Control This Year Are Already More Than All of 2017,” Scroll, August 7, 2018,

7 These are the ISPR figures. The DGMO’s figures are again higher, with seventy-four shaheed (martyrs) in 2016 and seventy-three in 2017.

8 Press Trust of India, “Till July-end 52 Killed in 1,435 Incidents of Shelling and Firing Across LoC, IB in J&K,” Times of India, October 1, 2018,

9 Occasionally, the government of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (known in India as Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) takes the initiative of releasing a press communiqué, but this is exceptional. It happened once this year: Tariq Naqash, “2 Civilians Killed, 5 Injured by Indian Shelling Across LoC: AJK Official,” Dawn, January 20, 2018,

10 Interview with Major General Asif Ghafoor (DGISPR), Rawalpindi, October 25, 2017. This is something Riaz Khokhar reconfirmed: “the military reports to the foreign ministry, ‘during so many hours, so much shelling has taken place’”; interview with Riaz Khokhar, Islamabad, October 24, 2017.

11 Interview with Major General Asif Ghafoor (DGISPR), Rawalpindi, October 25, 2017.

12 Certainly, some media organizations have correspondents in Sialkot and Muzaffarabad (like Dawn), but to have access to the LoC, journalists need a No Objection Certificate from the ISPR. Until the 1990s, locals used to testify, but now they are tightly controlled and, as a result, there are few eye witnesses of CFVs to interview; group interview with Sirmed Manzoor, Marvi Sirmed (Daily Times), Faisal Shakeel (Waqt TV), and Rana Jawad (Geo TV).

13 In Pakistan, this word refers to the security apparatus, in particular the military intelligence, the Inter-Services Intelligence.

14 Zakaria, Between the Great Divide 192–3.

15 See for instance, Tariq Naqash, “Woman, Teenage Boy Killed in Cross-LoC Firing by Indian Forces,” Dawn, February 4, 2018,

16 Naveed Siddiqui, “Pakistan Lodges Protest With India Over ‘deplorable’ Targeting of Civilians along LoC,” Dawn, February 5, 2018,

17 Interview with Khaled Ahmed, Lahore, October 21, 2017.

18 Quote in the text is from ibid. It is very important that most of the Pakistani interviewees, except those who were critical of the establishment, ruled out the possibility of CFVs initiated by “their” army. The two reasons mentioned here are, first, the fact that the Pakistani army focuses on the Afghan border with 200,000 soldiers deployed along the Durand Line and, second, the unpopularity of killing other Muslims: “We probably would be very hesitant in targeting any civilians on the Indian side. . . . Because they are the same people. They are relatives. They will come and tell them, ‘Pakistan shells have killed our people.’” From a group interview with Shaharyar Khan, Syed Azmat Hassan, Iqbal Ahmad Khan, and Shahid Malik, Lahore, October 22, 2017. In spite of these consideration, there was no clear evidence, until 2018, that the Pakistani army targeted the Hindu-dominated district of Jammu more than the others. Interestingly, Pakistanis are not aware of the civilian victims of CFVs on the Indian side: “You never hear of the Indian casualties. Civilian casualties. We are only aware of our casualties by the Indian forces and not the other way around.” From an interview with Khaled Ahmed, Lahore, October 21, 2017.

19 Zakaria, Between the Great Divide, 118.

20 Interview with Khwaja Asif, Islamabad, October 25, 2017.

21 Zakaria, Between the Great Divide, 7. Those who tried to find a place to stay in Muzaffarabad in 2016, when mortars started to kill again in Neelum Valley, had to pay up to Rs. 15,000 a month.

22 Happymon Jacob, “Ceasefire Violations in Jammu and Kashmir: A Line on Fire,” United States Institute of Peace, 2017, 3.

23 Ibid., 17.

24 Praveen Swami, “Runaway Grandmother Sparked Savage Skirmish on LoC,” Hindu, January 10, 2013,

25 See, for instance, my interview with Riaz Khokhar, Islamabad, October 24, 2017.

26 This formula was first used by the Pakistani chief of army staff, General Qamar Bajwa; see “Pakistan Committed to 2003 Ceasefire Agreement, says COAS,” Dawn, January 23, 2018,; I am grateful to Sushant Singh for this information.

27 Jacob, “Ceasefire Violations in Jammu and Kashmir,” 25.

28 See the fascinating testimonies of locals regarding infiltrations of mujahideen that Anam Zakaria has collected. See Zakaria, Between the Great Divide, 10, 73, 94–95,

29 Kurshid Mahmud Kasuri said: “I think the defining moment was 2001/02 when there was a mobilization of a million troops, which is the largest since the second world war, after the attack on the Indian Parliament. Troops stood there for eleven months, eyeball to eyeball, with nothing happening. In fact, there was a question in the Lok Sabha by a member of Parliament asking George Fernandes, the then Defence Minister, about the casualties. He mentioned eighteen hundred and seventy-one, if my memory is right, as people who had died without a shot being fired in anger. . . . I felt, for the first time, that the Indians might realize that there is nothing they can do to force Pakistan,” Interview with Kasuri, Lahore, October 23, 2017. For more details, see Kurshid Mahmud Kasuri, Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: An Insider's Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2015).

30 Kasuri also said: “[T]he United States played a very positive role at that time. Colin Powell was in touch with me and then on one occasion he said to me ‘Khurshid, watch out something good will happen.’ I’m sure he was doing the same with my counterpart. . . . Twice or thrice the American and British Ambassadors called on me jointly.”

31 Interview with Riaz Khokhar, Islamabad, October 24, 2017.

32 Amit Baruah and Sandeep Dikshit, “India, Pak. Ceasefire Comes Into Being,” Hindu, November 25, 2003,

33 Jacob, “Ceasefire Violations in Jammu and Kashmir,” 3.

34 Ibid., 22.

35 Ibid., 9.

36 Cited in Zakaria, Between the Great Divide, 110.

37 Ibid., 165.

38 Ibid., 107.

39 Julia Thompson questions this spoiler theory because there is no systematic correlation between peace talks and CFVs since 2013. Yet even if the correlation is unclear, this variable also needs to be factored in. See Julia Thompson, “The Dynamics of Violence along the Kashmir Divide, 2003–2015,” Henry L. Stimson Center, 2015,

40 In 1999, the international community had widely considered Pakistan guilty of infiltrating Indian territory, in spite of its attempts to deny its army being implicated in the Kargil operation. This initiative, which further affected the country’s credibility, was seen as too adventurous among the ranks of the establishment.

41 Interview with Imtiaz Alam, Lahore, October 21, 2017.

42 Interview with Talat Masood, Islamabad, October 25, 2017.

43 “In the Prime Minister’s office today, it is the NSA, Mr. Ajit Doval, who is calling the shots when it comes to relations with Pakistan. It has not been the Indian foreign office”; from a group interview with Shaharyar Khan, Syed Azmat Hassan, Iqbal Ahmad Khan and Shahid Malik, Lahore, October 22, 2017.

44 Ibid.

45 Manoj Joshi writes that at that time New Delhi was “ordering disproportionately heavy  artillery barrages along the LoC”. M. Joshi, “ BJP Has Scuttled the Kashmir Coalition But It Cannot Escape Blame for the Tragedy”, The Wire, 19 June 2018


46 Maria Abi-Habib and Hari Kumar, “India and Pakistan Agree to Truce on Kashmir Border,” New York Times, May 30, 2018,

47 Group interview with Shaharyar Khan, Syed Azmat Hassan, Iqbal Ahmad Khan, and Shahid Malik, Lahore, October 22, 2017.

48 “First-ever UN Human Rights Report on Kashmir Calls for International Inquiry Into Multiple Violations,” press release, United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, June 14, 2018,

49 Interview with Khaled Ahmed, Lahore, October 21, 2017.

50 Interview with three generals working under the DGMO, Rawalpindi, October 25, 2017.

51 Such “an unscheduled talk over hotline” took place on a Monday in late October 2017, for instance. See D. Peri and M. Zaidi, “India, Pakistan DGMOs talk over LoC firing,” Hindu, 30 October 2017,

52 Interview with Riaz Khokhar, Islamabad, October 24, 2017. Khokhar points out: “Hotlines had been there long before. Actually, that is the only, shall we say, crisis management instrument that we have on both sides. The telephone contact between the director of military operations here and the director of military operations there. We experimented with hotlines between the foreign secretaries, it was the most dead . . . or coldest hotlines I have ever known, never used.”

53 “Pakistani, Indian DGMOs establish hotline contact in bid to tamp down ceasefire violations,” Dawn, May 29, 2018,

54 In January this year, for instance, the Foreign Office of Pakistan summoned the Indian deputy high commissioner “to lodge a protest against casualties resulting from a ceasefire violation by Indian forces.” See Naveed Siddiqui, “Pakistan Lodges Protest With India Over Civilian Casualties in Cross-Border Firing,” Dawn, January 21, 2018,

55 Group interview with Shaharyar Khan, Syed Azmat Hassan, Iqbal Ahmad Khan, and Shahid Malik, Lahore, October 22, 2017.

56 Interview with Riaz Khokhar, Islamabad, October 24, 2017.

57 On this issue, Khokhar said: “It did not happen. It was just a public adaption. Moving from here to here…ten people…you can’t call it a surgical strike. Surgical strike means much more than that. Going in and smashing this and that, killing number of people…that I would consider a surgical strike. But if you are moving from your well held position two hundred yards…you can’t call it a surgical strike. I don’t think they should try.”

58 The Indian government claimed that this mission had been accomplished, before CFVs increased again. “Ceasefire violations by Pakistan lower after surgical strike: Govt,” Indian Express, March 22, 2017,

59 Lalwani, “Data Check.”

60 Interview with three generals working under the DGMO.

61 “United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan,” According to generals working under the DGMO, twenty-four cases or files (out of the 354 submitted) have been sent to the United Nations in New York.

62 “UNMOGIP Fact Sheet,” United Nations Peacekeeping,

63 Christopher Snedden, The Untold Story of the People of Azad Kashmir (London: Hurst, 2012), 222–3.

64 Zakaria, Between the Great Divide, 9, 204, and 208.

65 Salman Masood, “At U.S. Urging, Pakistan to Be Placed on Terrorism-Financing List,” New York Times, February 23, 2018,

66 Cited in Maria Abi-Habib, “Pakistan’s Military Has Quietly Reached Out to India for Talks,” New York Times, September 4, 2018,

67 “India Calls Off Swaraj-Qureshi Talks in NY,” Hindu Business Line, September 21, 2018,