Updated: February 26, 2021 5:33:33 am
After one of the most active years on the Line of Control, with over 4,600 instances of ceasefire violations by Pakistan recorded in 2020, India and Pakistan issued a joint statement on Thursday to strictly observe all agreements on ceasefire along the LoC and other sectors, and to address “each other’s core issues and concerns”. It was their first joint statement in over eight years.
The statement said that the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of the Indian and Pakistani armies had held talks this week to renew the peace process. It said both the countries agreed to “strict observance of all agreements, understanding and ceasefire along the Line of Control and all other sectors with effect from midnight 24/25 February”.
Lt General Paramjit Singh Sangha, Deputy Chief of Army (Strategy), who also holds charge of DGMO, spoke to his counterpart Maj Gen Nauman Zakaria on February 22. But the discussions leading to the understanding, sources said, had been going on for over a month.
Sources said the two sides had agreed to follow the 2003 ceasefire understanding. Though there had been no written agreement back then, Pakistan had announced unilateral ceasefire on November 26, 2003, which was reciprocated by India. However, the violations had started by 2009. The last such joint statement by the DGMOs was in December 2013.
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A senior Army officer told The Indian Express that they were “optimistically cautious”, without lowering their guard. “There is no proposal to reduce troops from the LoC,” the officer said.
The statement released on Thursday said, “The Director Generals of Military Operations of India and Pakistan held discussions over the established mechanism of hotline contact. The two sides reviewed the situation along the Line of Control and all other sectors in a free, frank and cordial atmosphere. In the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders, the two DGMOs agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns which have propensity to disturb peace and lead to violence.”
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Even as India and Pakistan are not yet talking, the understanding between the DGMOs to stick to ceasefire is a significant thaw, and will bring immediate relief to forces and citizens living on the LoC. It also comes close on the heels of the ratcheting down of heat on the eastern front with China.
It stated that both sides “reiterated that existing mechanisms of hotline contact and border flag meetings will be utilised to resolve any unforeseen situation or misunderstanding”.
Sources in the security establishment stressed that “there will be no change in our stance on anti-infiltration and anti-terrorist operations”. India had made it clear to Pakistan that if the latter continues to provide support to militants to infiltrate, India will retain the right to retaliate, the sources said.
According to the data shared by the government with Parliament earlier this month, 2020 witnessed 5,133 ceasefire violations as compared to 3,479 in 2019 and 2,140 in 2018. The incidents led to deaths of 22, 18 and 30 civilians, and 24, 19 and 29 security perrsonnel respectively. As per Army data, January and February 2021 have seen 591 crossfire violations already.
Under the current mechanism, a Brigadier-rank officer conducts a weekly call with his counterpart in the DGMO’s office through the hotline. Any urgent or outstanding issue is resolved through the hotline at any given point. Sources said the two DGMOs also interact regularly through this hotline to review the situation along the LoC and International Boundary to try and “achieve observance of all understandings and agreements between the two militaries”.
The senior Army officer said despite this week’s development, there would be no lowering of vigil on terrorism, or their efforts to check infiltration. “Acts of terror will not be tolerated and a befitting response would await any misadventure,” the officer said, adding that the understanding reached with Pakistan was essentially meant to provide relief to people living near the LoC who were badly affected by the shelling and firing.
The officer acknowledged that India was wary given its “history of bitter experiences” with Pakistan and that in the past peace processes had been “derailed either because of acts of terror or the Pakistan Army’s belligerence”.
About the situation in Kashmir, the officer said terror outfits like the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad etc continue to operate from Pakistan and that weapons smuggling is on. “However, we are hopeful that our concerns will be addressed.”
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