In a first joint statement issued by the two sides in years, India and Pakistan on Thursday said they have agreed to a “strict observance of all agreements , understandings and cease firing along the Line of Control (LoC) and all other sectors” with effect from the midnight of February 24/25 (Wednesday). The decision was announced after discussions between the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGsMO) over the established hotline on February 22.
“In the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders, the two DGsMO agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns which have [the] propensity to disturb peace and lead to violence,” the statement issued in Delhi and Islamabad said, adding that they would use existing mechanisms of hotlines and flag meetings to resolve any “misunderstandings”. As per the existing mechanism, there is a discussion by officials from the Military Operations directorate every Tuesday but the DGsMO speak only when one side requests a conversation.
However, Army sources reiterated that there would be “no let-up” in counter-terror operations as a result of the agreement, adding that the agreement with Pakistan was “an attempt to bring violence levels down”, but the Army retained the “right to respond” in case there is a terror attack in the future.
“India desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan. We have always maintained that we are committed to addressing issues, if any, in a peaceful bilateral manner,” said Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Srivastava, when asked about the timing of the agreement that follows days after India and China announced a disengagement along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). “On key issues, our position remains unchanged,” he added.
Pakistan’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs Moeed Yusuf called the agreement a “win” for Pakistan. He said the agreement followed “efforts behind the scenes”. In a tweet, he denied that the talks were the result of “back-channel diplomacy” between him and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, and had resulted from the “direct channel” between the DGsMO.
“Do you think this could happen without efforts or without pressure, something which India has not agreed to all these months and years?” Mr. Yusuf told journalists in response to questions about the agreement. “So, this is our success, the success of diplomacy and god willing more roads will open in the future, so that the resolution of Kashmir that we want, the way we want will happen,” he stated.
Pakistan’s move for the DGsMO talks marks a break from its Prime Minister Imran Khan’s previous stand over the government’s decision to amend Article 370, where he had said no engagement with India was possible without the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s “autonomous” status.
Calling the agreement “path-breaking” Happymon Jacob of the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and author of two books on the LoC said this was the biggest military measure between the two sides in 18 years to normalise the situation along the LoC.
“The agreement comes in the wake of over 5000 CFVs [cease-fire violations] last year, the highest in 19 years, and this shows the realisation in New Delhi and Islamabad that they cannot afford to let violence spiral out of control given its inherently escalatory nature,” Professor Jacob said.
According to data provided by the Ministry of Defence in Parliament earlier this month, there were 5133 instances of CFVs along the LoC and other areas in Jammu and Kashmir, resulting in 46 fatal casualties in 2020, and 3,479 CFVs in 2019. In May 2018, the DGsMO agreed during a similar hotline conversation to observe the ceasefire strictly, but subsequent tensions over the Pulwama attack, Balakot air strikes and the Article 370 move led to a sharp spike in CFVs.