SIGNALLING a significant step forward in the thawing of relations between India and Pakistan, the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two armies spoke on the hotline and “agreed to fully implement the Ceasefire Understanding of 2003 in letter and spirit forthwith” on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir.
This reiteration of ceasefire on the LoC follows Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s “ceasefire” announcement on May 16 that security forces will terminate all offensive operations in Kashmir during the month of Ramzan.
As per nearly identical statements issued by both sides, the two top military officials Pakistani DGMO Major General Sahir Shamshad Mirza and his Indian counterpart Lt General Anil Chauhan spoke at 6 pm Tuesday and agreed “to ensure that henceforth the Ceasefire will not be violated by both sides.” And “in case of any issue, restraint will be exercised and the matter will be resolved through utilisation of existing mechanisms of Hotline Contacts and Border Flag Meetings at Local Commanders’ Level.”
According to official data, there were 860 ceasefire violations in 2017 which led to the death of 15 Indian soldiers. The number of violations has already shot up to 908 so far this year in which Indian Army has lost 11 soldiers. The Pakistan Army, however, claims there were 1,813 ceasefire violations in 2017 while the number in 2018, so far, is 1,321.
The slight difference in the two statements issued by the Ministry of Defence in Delhi and by Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) in Islamabad indicates that the offer for “fully implementing the ceasefire” was made by Pakistan Army and accepted by the Indian side.
The ISPR statement says that “both DGMOs reviewed the prevailing situation along the line of control and working boundary and mutually agreed to undertake sincere measures to improve the existing situation ensuring peace and avoidance of hardships to the civilians along the borders.” The Ministry’s statement notes that “Indian Army DGMO agreed with the proposal to undertake sincere measures to improve the existing situation to ensure peace and avoidance of hardships to the civilians along the borders”.
Official sources told The Indian Express that Tuesday’s announcement fits the pattern of peace overtures from Pakistan since April. “But the key issue is whether infiltration from across the LoC stops.” They added that “if the guns go silent and the militants are not launched from the other side, we should assess that our policy of last two years has worked”.
On Saturday, five infiltrating militants were killed on the LoC in Kupwara sector by the Army. This was the third infiltration attempt foiled by the Army in a week, and does not point to any decline in infiltration from the Pakistani side.
The announcement reinstating the ceasefire on the LoC follows recent “signs of positivity” between the two countries, as told by Ajay Bisaria, Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad, to The Indian Express last week.
Enumerating the steps taken by the two sides which include exchange of prisoners and progress on other bilateral agreements, besides a meeting of the Indus Water Commission and scheduled meetings of Coast Guard teams, Bisaria had said that “all these steps add to the general level of trust, prepare us for the bigger moves”.
Major General Asif Ghafoor, DG ISPR of Pakistan military, had told The Indian Express in an interview in Islamabad earlier this month that “the two DGMOs must reach an understanding as both sides need to bring the temperature down (on the LoC)”. He had also said that that if the Indian Army stopped firing on the LoC, Pakistan Army would reciprocate the gesture.
The LoC ceasefire was first announced by Pakistan on November 26, 2003 and immediately reciprocated by India. With minor violations, the ceasefire had largely held on until the situation on the LoC worsened in the winter of 2016, following the surgical strikes by Indian Army on terror launch pads across the LoC.
In his annual press conference on January 12, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had unequivocally stated that ceasefire violations are being initiated by Indian Army on the LoC as part of counter-terrorism action targeting only Pak army posts that are used to launch terrorists into Kashmir.
He went on to add that Pakistan Army “is again and again asking for going back to the 2003 ceasefire because of the pain felt. If there is a drop in infiltration from Pakistani side, we are willing to call a ceasefire”.
In the last hotline talks held between the two DGMOs on April 27, Lt General Chauhan had again told his counterpart that firing by Indian troops is only carried out on the LoC in response to support given by the Pakistan Army to armed terrorists, who infiltrate across the border and target Indian Army posts. “The onus of de-escalation along the LoC rests with Pakistan Army provided they stop supporting terrorists and put an end to unprovoked ceasefire violations to abet infiltration,” the Indian DGMO had then said as per an official MoD statement.