With National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval believed to be playing a key role, India has eased border tensions with both China and Pakistan — Ladakh disengagement and ceasefire. Indian Army chief General MM Naravane has spoken about the “advice” given by Doval in reaching a disengagement agreement with China. While the Ladakh disengagement offers greater hope of peace on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), it is the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan that will be more in focus.
Reports suggest that the “sudden” change in Pakistan’s commitment towards maintaining peace along the Line of Control (LoC) happened after Ajit Doval met his counterpart Moeed Yusuf — in a third country. Yusuf, however, in a tweet, attempted to distance himself from back-channel diplomacy.
I have seen claims by Indian media that attribute today’s ceasefire announcement between Pakistani and Indian DGMOs to back-channel diplomacy between me and the Indian NSA. This is baseless. No such talks have taken place between me and Mr. Doval. 1/4— Moeed W. Yusuf (@YusufMoeed) February 25, 2021
But that back-channel diplomacy was at play was evident from a series of steps that took place before Thursday’s joint statement by India and Pakistan that reiterated the two countries’ commitment to the 2003 ceasefire agreement. On February 2, Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa talked about mutual respect and peaceful coexistence in what was the first “soft” stand on India since the Balakot air strike by the Indian Air Force two years ago.
Last week, Pakistan, in a change, stuck to the topic of Covid-19 pandemic in a virtual SAARC meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Pakistan did not make the usual rhetorical reference to the Kashmir issue at the meet.
And, just before India and Pakistan came out with a joint statement on keeping the LoC a peaceful zone, India allowed Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to fly through India’s air space for his visit to Sri Lanka.
Finally, through the joint statement, India and Pakistan announced that peace was brokered during a telephone call between the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMO) of the two countries. India and Pakistan agreed to abide by all agreements on ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) and the sectors of the International Border “in the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders”.
There is a hotline service between Indian and Pakistan armies. The officers of the rank of Major speak to one another frequently. Brigadier-level officers talk once in a while. But DGMOs talk very “rarely”. It happened this time and an agreement was reached, the two sides have maintained officially.
Will this ceasefire last?
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.
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 became 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 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.