A Slight Thaw in India-Pakistan Relations

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A file photo of Indian soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir. Image Credit: flowcomm via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0

India and Pakistan have agreed to adhere to their 2003 ceasefire along the Line of Control and international border in Jammu and Kashmir, as the two countries move towards a thaw in their relations.

The Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan, Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan and Major General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, reviewed the ground situation earlier in the week after talking on their special hotline.

‘Both the DGMOs agreed to fully implement the ceasefire understanding of 2003 in letter and spirit forthwith and to ensure that henceforth the Ceasefire will not be violated by both sides,” according to a statement from the Indian Army.

The Indian Army records 860 ceasefire violations in 2017 and another 908 so far this year, killing a total of 26 soldiers. Pakistan counts many more violations but mentions no military casualties. According to India, 12 civilians were killed or wounded in the firing in 2017, while Pakistan lists 50 civilian casualties for that year.

The violence along the LoC and international border served no political purpose, though as one retired general wryly observed, it did give both sides “a lot of shooting practice to vent their anger”.

News of the ceasefire- or more accurately, a return to a ceasefire- came less than two weeks after the government’s so-called Ramzan ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir, with army chief Bipin Rawat hinting “at the possibility of extending this internal ceasefire if peace were to prevail in the state.”

In April, Rawat’s Pakistani counterpart General Qamar Javed Bajwa called for a “comprehensive and meaningful dialogue” with India, “but only on the basis of sovereign equality, dignity and honour”.

We don’t know what has prompted the Pakistan Army to ease tensions with India, but two obvious possibilities spring to mind. One, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is scheduled to hold a plenary and working group meetings later this month in Paris. These could decide if Pakistan gets off the FATF ‘grey’ list or worse yet, gets put on the ‘black’ list for its support to terrorists. Pakistan could benefit from a more conciliatory India during this period.

Two, there’s the matter of the Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018, which Pakistan’s cabinet approved on May 21. The order strengthens Pakistan’s hand in the region, which India considers part of Jammu and Kashmir, and hence, an integral part of India. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) runs through Gilgit-Baltistan, and it’s likely Beijing nudged Pakistan to issue the order so it could improve security and administration in the region. The generals in Rawalpindi probably hope to complicate India’s response to this move by dangling offers of dialogue.

While news of the ceasefires in the Kashmir valley and along the Loc and international border are good news, expectations of meaningful talks may be premature. Pakistan is presently under a caretaker Prime Minister, with a general election scheduled for July 25. Its army is likely to play kingmaker.

India is also headed for elections next year, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will gain no political mileage from his supporters by making concessions to Pakistan.

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