In a significant development, India and Pakistan have agreed to strictly observe ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control (LoC) and all other sectors with effect from midnight 24/25 February, a joint statement said Thursday. 

The Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan held discussions over the established mechanism of hotline contact, said the statement issued by the Army. 

It said the two sides reviewed the situation along the LoC 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 the propensity to disturb peace and lead to violence,” it said. 

“Both sides reiterated that existing mechanisms of hotline contact and border flag meetings will be utilized to resolve any unforeseen situation or misunderstanding,” the statement added. 

While India and Pakistan had signed a ceasefire agreement in 2003, it was never implemented in letter and spirit after the initial few years. 

According to official data, there were 5,133 instances of ceasefire violations along the LoC last year, which resulted in 46 fatalities. This year, as of 28 January, there were 299 violations, and one fatality had been reported till 1 February. 

Pullback of specialized elements 

According to sources in the defense and security establishment, according to the understanding, both countries are pulling back specialized offensive units from the LoC starting Thursday evening. 

Specialized units operate along the LoC on both sides, carrying out offensive operations against each other.

The pullback means these units will move away from the forward positions at the LoC and will be re-inducted as and when necessary. 

The move comes after at least three months of back-channel talks at various levels 

It also comes just weeks after Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa called for resolving the Jammu and Kashmir issue in a “dignified and peaceful manner”. 

The LoC equations had changed over the last three months with units being strictly asked not to carry out any offensive action like snipping, among others, sources said. 

Several offensive units posted along the LoC have been asked to pull back while the regular soldiers meant for anti-infiltration grids will remain, they said. 

The agreement is limited to ensuring peace along the LoC as “peace along the LoC was mutually beneficial”, added the sources. 

They also said the people living along the LoC will also heave a sigh of relief as they were the worst affected due to ceasefire violations. 

The sources also explained that past peace initiatives have been hampered by inimical elements in Pakistan, which used terrorists to launch attacks, and India is “cautiously optimistic” this time. They underlined that the Army remains committed to fighting terrorism and any terror activity will be given a “befitting response”. 

“There will be no let-up in counter-infiltration and counter-terrorism operation,” said a source. 

 India has made it clear to Pakistan that if the latter continues to provide support to militants to infiltrate, India will retain the right to retaliate

Leadup to latest ceasefire agreement 

The agreement between the two directors-general did not emerge out of the blue. In fact, very little foreign policy exists in a vacuum, and there’s always some context or background. 

First, it was Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s 3 February call for “the ideal of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence” and to “extend a hand of peace in all directions” at the national air force academy. 

A week or so later, Imran Khan’s special assistant Moeed Yusuf reportedly said, “Can we have economic security without peace in the region? No, it is an oxymoron. If you want peace, you have to move forward.” In this spirit of moving forward, India had cast aside memories of President Ramnath Kovind being denied permission to travel through Pakistani airspace in September 2019 and decided to allow Khan the use of Indian airspace on his way to Sri Lanka.

It’s hard to pin down one definitive reason for this gradual improvement in ties between the two South Asian countries, so here’s an effort to collate a set of factors that may be contributing to this latest chapter of New Delhi and Islamabad’s complicated relationship. 

Fatigue and FOMO: As mentioned earlier, there has been little public effort from both sides to improve India-Pakistan since the Pathankot attack over five years ago. As with interpersonal relations, the act of continuing to ignore and isolate an entity takes a great deal more effort than actually engaging with it. And so, the possibility of both countries deciding to make another go of trying to engage with one another can’t be ruled out. Equally, India and Pakistan must be acutely aware that just because they are not talking to each other, it doesn’t mean other countries are not speaking to Pakistan and India respectively. This results in the foreign policy equivalent of FOMO, where countries feel they are missing out on something. 

External and internal pressures: Being on the Financial Action Task Force’s grey list has reportedly cost Pakistan $38 billion(countries in grey and blacklists find it difficult to get loans, etc). 

Coupled with the temporary halt in IMF funding and the financial ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s safe to say Pakistan is on extremely shaky ground economically(the likeliest reason for the ceasefire) 

De-escalation with China: For India, the recent agreement to scale down hostilities on the Line of Actual Control with China could pave the way to a reintroduction of warmth into the bilateral, which could at some point extend to access to the latter’s companies, apps and products. 

For now, it appears to be cautiously being extended to Beijing’s best friend(Pakistan) in the region (and possibly the world).(basically, it’s just an extension of the de-escalation with China) 

Will this ceasefire last? (the last one was in 2003)

This is not the first time that India and Pakistan have agreed to give peace a chance on the LoC to make the lives of civilians living along the line easy. The original ceasefire agreement was reached in November 2003, four years after the Kargil War. 

The 2003 ceasefire agreement remains a milestone as it brought peace along the LoC until 2006. Between 2003 and 2006, not a single bullet was fired by the jawans of India and Pakistan.(Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the one who signed this 2003 agreement) 

It is this ceasefire agreement that is referred to as having been violated whenever Pakistan fires at Indian posts along the LoC. 

But since 2006, ceasefire violations have become the norm with increasing frequency. Recent years have seen an increasing number of ceasefire violations despite an agreement reached in 2018 to adhere to the 2003 ceasefire agreement. 

In 2018, more than 2,000 ceasefire violations were recorded. The number of ceasefire violations increased to over 3,400 in 2019 and over 5,000 in 2020. A total of over 14,000 ceasefire violations have taken place since 2006. In 2021, Pakistan has already violated the ceasefire close to 600 times. 

This puts a question mark on how long the fresh commitment to ceasefire along the LoC can hold especially with summers approaching. As a matter of annual routine, terror infiltration bids from Pakistan increase as summer begins in the Kashmir Valley. Melting of ice on the high mountains offers Pakistan an opportunity to foment terrorism in the Valley.

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