In a surprise announcement Thursday morning, India and Pakistan agreed to observe a ceasefire along the Line of Control after talks between senior military officials through a hotline.
It came as a bolt from the blue to have a rare joint statement by the Directors of Military operations of the two countries. What prompted India and Pakistan to hold talks over the hotline after over two years of hostility and a live LOC is not known. Speculations by a section of the Indian press that back channels had been activated and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Moeed Yusuf Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special assistant on National Security and Strategic planning were involved in getting the ceasefire through, were denied by Moeed Yusuf.
The entire process was kept under wraps till this morning. What are the implications of the agreement and does it signify a softening of stand? It is too early to say. But the fact remains firing across the LoC will stop from midnight. This is itself a major step forward. agreement.
“The two sides reviewed the situation along the Line of Control 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 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. Both sides reiterated that existing mechanisms of hotline contact and border flag meetings will be utilised to resolve any unforeseen situation or misunderstanding,’’ the joint statement issued by both sides said. A joint statement between India and Pakistan coming as it does at a time when tension between India and Pakistan spiralled to a new phase of hostility.
Moeed Yusuf has tweeted sometime back: “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.’’ He added that the welcome development on the LoC is a result of discussions through the established channel of the DGMOs. Obviously these are by their very nature not in the public eye and done privately and professionally through the direct channel.’’ And in another tweet: ``Pakistan had continued to call for the 2003 ceasefire agreement to be honoured and I am glad we have reached the understanding’’.
He added, "Doing so will save innocent lives so no one should question te intent. Nor should wrong inferences be drawn. There is nothing more than meets the eye here.’’ It is quite apparent that the public mood in Pakistan after the abrogation of article 370 is not for talks. Else there was no need for such a long explanation by Yusuf.
If the firing stops across the LoC, it could well be the first baby steps towards diffusing tension and finally working at getting to a normal relationship. However, that is a long way off at the moment, with many a false start that eventually came to nothing. At the weekly briefing on Thursday, MEA spokesman Anurag Srivastav had nothing more to add besides directing reporters to the joint statement. However, in reply to another question, he said: ``India desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan. We have always maintained that we are committed to addressing issues, if any, in a peaceful bilateral manner. On key issues, our position remains unchanged. I don’t need to reiterate it.’’ To be noted is the fact that the MEA spokesman did not immediately point to terrorism and that talks and terror cannot go hand in hand.
There is something afoot but both governments are wary and ready to back out if the public mood is against a rapprochement. Earlier this month, Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had said that India and Pakistan must resolve the Kashmir issue in a peaceful and dignified manner.