Guns go silent along India-Pakistan border after ceasefire. Big test next.

A renewed pledge last week by India and Pakistan to adhere to a ceasefire pact along the Line of Control (LoC) and international border in Jammu and Kashmir is working on the ground, people aware of the matter said but underscored that the truce would face its biggest test over the next few months when the snow, which clogs infiltration routes, starts melting.

“The ceasefire is a win-win for India and Pakistan and for the border population in the two countries,” said a top police officer in Jammu and Kashmir after the first review of the ceasefire starting May 24 midnight indicated that it had led to a huge change on the ground. “Not a single shot has been fired along the border since the ceasefire came into force,” the officer said.

The two armies announced the ceasefire after a discussion between India’s Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), Lt Gen Paramjit Singh Sangha, and his Pakistani counterpart, Maj Gen Nauman Zakaria on February 22. Diplomatic and military back channels had been preparing the ground for the discussion for months.

In a statement released three days later, the defence ministry said the two sides agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns that could disturb the peace to achieve “mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders”. The promise to adhere to the ceasefire agreement of November 2003 came into effect from January 24 midnight.

The peace along the border comes after firing and shelling by border guards on both sides for several years. The incidents had peaked in 2020 when, according to data tabled in Parliament last month, Indian security forces reported 5,133 ceasefire violations; an average of 14 every day or one violation every two hours.

Indian security forces responded to these violations and lately started the use of extended range Excalibur shells that can target important towns across the border to retaliate the Pakistani army targeting villages on this side of the fence. In the last three years alone, 341 civilians had died in the border firing that included small arms and artillery shelling.

Haji Mohd Shafi, village head of Pukharni, a border village in Jammu’s Rajouri district, thanked prime ministers of the two countries for the ceasefire. “We can now sleep and work in peace,” he told news agency ANI.

Indian security officials, however, conceded that the ceasefire would face its biggest test over the next few months when the snow on the high mountain passes starts melting. This is when attempts to infiltrate terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir start to increase.

In the past, Pakistani Rangers often opened fire on the Indian side to give the terrorists cover fire. Or to distract Indian border guards away from locations and routes being used by the terrorists to infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir.

If this happens again, it would bring the stated intentions of Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan’s army into question, an official said.

To be sure, PM Khan has attempted to put the onus to create an “enabling environment for further progress” in bilateral ties on India. “I welcome restoration of the ceasefire along the LOC. The onus of creating an enabling environment for further progress rests with India,” Khan tweeted on Saturday, his first reaction to the ceasefire by the two armies.

Source- Hindustan Times.

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