What motivated the ceasefire pact between India and Pakistan along the border with Kashmir? | News on border disputes

New Delhi, India – For nearly two weeks now, a tense silence has reigned in the sky of Jura, a small village located less than a kilometer from the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border that separates Kashmir administered by Pakistan and the Indian cashmere.

The village, located in the Neelum Valley, has long been in the firing line of hostilities between the two nuclear-weapon neighbors, who frequently exchanged small arms, mortar and artillery fire across the LoC for years, killing dozens on both sides.

Last month, there was a rare thaw in otherwise frozen relations between South Asian neighbors as their armies announced a sudden and rare reaffirmation of a 2003 ceasefire agreement, pledging to end the violence that killed at least 74 people in 2020 alone.

Since then, residents of the Jura have claimed the guns have fallen silent, although they are not sure how long the newly established and fragile peace will last.

“Yes, [the firing] is finished for now, but we don’t know anything about the future, ”said Faisal Siddiq, 16, whose house was badly damaged in a series of bombings last year.

“We don’t know anything yet, and we don’t have a lot of confidence [in the ceasefire]. “

‘A good start’

Pakistan and India, however, say they are committed to the ceasefire, while analysts suggest it could be the start of a thaw in relations.

“In the interest of achieving a mutually beneficial and lasting peace along the borders, the two [Directors General of Military Operations of India and Pakistan] agreed to address the fundamental issues and concerns of each that have the propensity to disrupt the peace and lead to violence, ”reads a joint statement released by India and Pakistan on February 25.

Indian Army soldiers patrol the Line of Control (LoC) between India and the Pakistani border at Poonch, about 250 kilometers (156 miles) from Jammu [File: Channi Anand/AP]

India and Pakistan both claim the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir in its entirety, but administer separate parts of it, divided by the LoC.

In Indian-administered Kashmir, where the majority of Kashmiris reside, development has been welcomed by leaders of all parties and ideologies.

“I think it’s a good thing, at least there will be some peace at our borders,” said Farooq Abdullah, senior politician in Indian-administered Kashmir and current member of the Indian parliament, calling the development ” good start”.

“People on both sides of the border are suffering, dying, people cannot cultivate their land, houses are destroyed.”

Abdullah hoped that the ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan would lead to a broader settlement of the issues between the two countries, especially over Kashmir.

Mehbooba Mufti, a patron of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and former chief minister of Indian-administered Kashmir, also welcomed the announcement.

“This is a welcome step because people on both sides of the border are the victims,” ​​she told Al Jazeera, adding that a “kind of political initiative” should follow suit.

“If the SAARC [South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation] the top is [held] in Islamabad, I hope [Indian] Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] visits. “

Mufti said the original 2003 ceasefire agreement was followed by direct dialogue between the two countries, as well as internal dialogue between the Indian government and Kashmiri separatists, a move that she would like to see it repeated.

“[T]this is the reason why this ceasefire was successful and it also had a very positive impact on the situation inside Jammu and Kashmir – militancy fell because there was a dialogue between [then-Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf and [then-Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari] Vajpayee, ”she said.

2003 ceasefire agreement

The ceasefire was initially established in November 2003 in order to stabilize the situation on the de facto border between the two contested Kashmiri countries.

While it was initially accompanied by a number of positive developments, including the resumption of bus and commercial links between the two shores of Kashmir, it was frequently raped in the years to come.

Since 2017, layoffs at the LoC on both sides have escalated significantly, the data shows.

The Indian government says Pakistan violated the ceasefire at least 5,133 times last year, killing 22 civilians and 24 security personnel.

Pakistan, for its part, claims India violated the ceasefire at least 3,097 times in 2020, killing 28 civilians and injuring 257 others.

Relations between the two countries have deteriorated sharply since February 2019, when India accused Pakistan-based armed groups of carrying out an attack in the Indian-administered Kashmir town of Pulwama, which killed more than 40 Indian security forces.

Pakistan has denied these allegations.

When India carried out retaliatory airstrikes days later, Pakistani jets also rushed in to carry out similar raids near military installations in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Tensions eased after the return of the pilot of an Indian fighter jet shot down by Pakistan in the air skirmish two days later.

But there have been no direct talks between the two sides since, with the two countries frequently accusing the other of supporting armed groups.

Relations deteriorated further in August 2019 when India revoked a special constitutional status granted to Indian-administered Kashmir, a move Pakistan called contrary to UN Security Council resolutions on the decades-long dispute. .

What prompted this rare movement?

Given the nearly frozen relationship, what caused the sudden thaw that led to a reaffirmation of the ceasefire?

For Tirumallai Cunnuvakum Anandanpillai Raghavan, former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, the thaw is the result of a natural cycle in relations between the two countries.

“In my opinion, the reason this measure was taken is that the two countries believe that prolonged instability is in neither of the interests of either,” Raghavan told Al Jazeera. . “I don’t directly see the role of a foreign factor in all of this.”

Pakistan’s official position on the issue seems to echo this view, with Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri saying the decision was taken to defuse the violence.

“The deal will help save lives in Kashmir and alleviate the suffering of Kashmiris living along the LoC,” he said at a weekly press briefing last week.

“We have […] argued that the escalation along the LoC was a threat to regional peace and security. Recent developments are very much in line with Pakistan’s consistent position. “

Chaudhri said Pakistan had “never shied away from participating in the talks and has always called for a peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, including the internationally recognized dispute over Jammu and Kashmir.”

A Pakistani national security official, meanwhile, said the reaffirmation of the ceasefire was a positive development, but warned the gains were fragile.

“This is surely a positive development because the ceasefire violations by India have resulted in the loss of civilian lives and property,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity being given the sensitivity of the subject.

“We hope this remains in the best interests of people on both sides of the LoC.”

The official said Pakistan remains committed to its current position on the Kashmir dispute. “Our perspective of security in the region is one of economic security,” he said.

Mufti, the political leader of Indian-administered Kashmir, believes, however, that the “world situation” may have had a role to play.

“There is a new [presidential] administration in [the United States of] America now, ”she said. “They want to do things in a different way than what [former President Donald] Trump wanted.

“In addition, India wants to be a player in the global world and I think that the Kashmir issue is somehow holding it back. I think the ceasefire is the bare minimum that they can agree with Pakistan. “

Washington, DC-based regional analyst Michael Kugelman admits, however, that while development benefits the United States, they may not have been directly affected by the new administration of US President Joe Biden.

“I don’t expect pressure from the Biden administration to have been a factor, as negotiations leading up to the deal began long before the administration took office,” he said. “Having said that, let’s be clear: Washington benefits greatly from this ceasefire.

“Pakistan will now be less distracted by India and will be in a better position to assist Washington in the peace process in Afghanistan. And India will be in a better position to focus its attention on the Chinese threat driving the US-India partnership. So while Washington may not have been a factor in this story, it is certainly advantageous by the bottom line. “

New Delhi-based defense analyst Ajai Shukla sees the announcement as a consequence of “Pakistan picking a moment of India’s vulnerability against China, to make an offer that would convince India of Pakistan’s good faith.” .

“Islamabad hopes the timing of its offer will convince New Delhi of Pakistan’s sincere desire for a workable arrangement in Kashmir,” he said.

Raghavan, meanwhile, stressed that the agreement was “limited”, aimed only at “maintaining the 2003 ceasefire, strengthening it and reaffirming it”.

“Now what are the next steps that are going to follow, it is too early to tell because the relationship has been through such a bad time,” he said. “You have to be careful and not be overly optimistic or overly pessimistic.”

With additional reporting by Asad Hashim of Al Jazeera in Islamabad, Pakistan.

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