GP Insights # 476, 28 February 2021
On 25 February 2021, a joint statement published by respective ministries/departments in India and Pakistan mentioned the discussions between the Director Generals of Military Operations of the two countries. Through the hotline, after reviewing the situation “along the Line of Control and all other sectors in a free, frank and cordial atmosphere” both sides agreed to revive the ceasefire.
According to the statement, “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 propensity to disturb peace and lead to violence. 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.” The statement also reiterated to make use of existing mechanisms of hotline contact and border flag meetings “to resolve any unforeseen situation or misunderstanding.”
What is the background?
First, the comprehensive ceasefire agreement signed between India and Pakistan in November 2003. Signed after the 2001-02 military standoff between the two countries, the agreement was comprehensive in its focus and also in its adherence. It included three areas: the International Border (IB), the Line of Control (LoC) and the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) in Jammu and Kashmir. Thus it covers the region from Siachen in the north to the creeks of Gujarat-Sindh between India and Pakistan. Signed between President Musharraf and PM Vajpayee, the agreement held for the next ten years. The ceasefire period saw the easing of LoC, as both started bus and truck services between two parts of J&K. The easing brought normalcy to regular life along the LoC, and also reduced violence inside J&K.
Second, the violation of ceasefire during the recent years, undermining the decade long achievements across the LoC. During recent years, there have been a series of ceasefire violations as the LoC became violent, with cross-firing from both sides. India and Pakistan have provided a long list of ceasefire violations holding the other side responsible. The ceasefire violations affected the normal life along the LoC, slowed down the bus and truck services, and also witnessed increased violence within J&K. One could see a direct correlation between the instability in LoC and the achievements during the first decade of the ceasefire agreement.
Third, the cause and effect relationship between the increasing political divide between India and Pakistan, and the ceasefire violations along the LoC. Whether the ceasefire violations resulted in the political divide between the two countries, or the lack of political dialogue that made the LoC violent would depend on whom one is talking to. There is a linkage between the two.
What does it mean?
First, a word of caution. Between India and Pakistan, following a season of instability, there has always been a ceasefire, as a starting point. One does not have to look into whether the India-China border understanding or the Biden administration has affected the change. On J&K, no external factors can make India and Pakistan to toe a particular line; the internal politics and institutional interests are too strong to listen to outside actors. The return to the ceasefire is bound to happen; two nuclear neighbours cannot be in a perineal military standoff. The militaries cannot afford to stand against the other on a long standoff without a political endgame.
Second, since both countries have agreed to return to the 2003 ceasefire, they should ensure it is observed in letter and spirit. Whatever may be the actual reasons for the two militaries to agree to make use of the hotline and return to the ceasefire, they should ensure that the institutions of the DGMOs are made better use of at the local level.
Third, both countries should now build on – across the LoC and across Wagah. They may, or they may not. But, they should.