In an unexpected move, India and Pakistan issued a joint statement agreeing to hold fire at the LoC.
The agreement came into effect at the stroke of the midnight hour on February 24, two days after the DGMOs of both countries agreed to bring violence levels down at the LoC.
The re-commitment to the 2003 ceasefire is coming at a time when tensions are slowly ebbing at the LAC where India and China have been involved in a tense stand-off for the last 9 months.
Sources within the Ministry of Defence say both India and Pakistan want to give peace a chance. The year 2020 has been particularly bad for the ceasefire. There were 4,645 ceasefire violations last year, a record high when compared to 1,629 in 2018 and 3,168 in 2019. In the first 2 months of 2021 alone, there have been 591 violations. The dramatic rise in 2019 came after the Pulwama attacks and abrogation of Article 370.
A joint statement issued by the armies of both countries said: “We have reviewed the situation along the Line of Control and all other sectors in a free, frank and cordial atmosphere. Both sides agreed for strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing along the Line of Control and all other sectors with effect from midnight 24/25 Feb 2021.”
DGMOs Lt Gen Paramjit Singh Sangha, and his Pakistani counterpart, Maj Gen Nauman Zakaria, also “agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns which have propensity to disturb peace and lead to violence” in the interest of “achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders”.
But there is cautious optimism within the army headquarters. Sources say “while the attempt is to give peace a chance, this certainly does not mean that India will slow down its anti-terror operations in Kashmir.” A total of 221 terrorists were killed in the Valley last year, while nine have been killed in the last 2 months.
Army Chief Gen MM Naravane while speaking at a webinar on Wednesday had said: “With our continuous engagement with Pakistan, we will be able to prevail over them for border peace, as unsettled borders help no one.”
But the General had also raised concerns about infiltration in the summer months and terror launchpads that were active across the border.
A top level source said: “Civilians on both sides of the border are the ones that suffer the most when ceasefire violations happen. We don’t want that. But if provoked, we reserve the right to respond.”
India and Pakistan have been talking for the last three months to try and come to some sort of understanding to keep the peace. As part of the agreement, sources say specialised units deployed to launch offensives against each other are being pulled back.
Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Army Chief had made a pitch for peace saying that ” Pakistan and India must resolve the longstanding issue of Jammu and Kashmir in a dignified and peaceful manner”.