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A well-needed ceasefire

There is finally some good news on India-Pakistan front. After months of acrimony, accusations and war-like violence on the line of control (LOC) and international border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir, Islamabad and New Delhi have agreed to hold back their guns and stick to 2003 ceasefire understanding in letter and spirit. The development comes after ceasefire violations (CFVs) in just the first five months of 2018 broke all past annual records since 2003, with the two armies regularly using light artillery guns, anti-tank guided missiles and heavy mortars to target each other and civilians getting caught in the middle. As many as 1300 ceasefire violations (as against 908 in 2017) have taken place since January this year along the LOC and IB. In this hostile relationship, the civilian population, however, suffers the most. The Indian and Pakistani troops occupy the heights on either side of the Kashmir valley, leaving the civilian population badly exposed. Thousands of civilians living along the LOC and IB on both sides have been shifted to safer areas leaving them homeless. Schools have been shut and agricultural fields deserted. India has lost 36 soldiers and civilians in them, with another 120 being injured, while the number of casualties on the Pakistani side is estimated to be much more. The proposed ceasefire is likely to lessen the suffering of the civilian population, and they could be now able to move back to their homes to live a normal life. Both, Islamabad and New Delhi need to come out of this violent psyche that helps only the ruling parties to bolster their political cause at the humanitarian cost. Alleviating the suffering of the people of the region and working for their better should be a priority for peacemakers. The ceasefire pact will come as a major relief for civilians living in border hamlets. Indian director-general of military operations Lt General Anil Chauhan and his Pakistani counterpart Major General Sahir Shamshad Mirza decided to “fully implement the 2003 ceasefire understanding in letter and spirit” after the latter sought “a special hotline talk” at 6pm on May 29. The two DGsMO agreed that any “issue” will be sought to be resolved through the hotline and border flag meetings. With ceasing of fire on the LOC, the unilateral ceasefire in the valley for the month of Ramazan should also bolster the peace move. There is need not just to moves for peace but also make it a permanent thing. Unless, both, India and Pakistan understood the value of it, all such moves could be just ad-hoc and half-hearted. To make peace a permanent thing there is need to move beyond provisional requirements. Kashmir is not a problem between militants and security forces in Kashmir or the issue between two armies deployed on border and LOC that holding back guns by them would bring peace. Kashmir as a problem is rooted in the history of the sub-continent. Unless it is addressed and resolved in its historical perspective, no permanent peace can be guaranteed in the region. It needs a bold political initiative supported by measures like ceasefire at all levels—with Pakistan and within Kashmir. It is quite appreciable that government of India has offered to hold talks with Kashmiri separatist leadership and Pakistan with certain conditions. But making talks conditional would only complicate the process of dialogue. The political and military establishments on both sides of the border understand it well that little could be achieved by putting ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ on any initiative. The good thing is that the separatist leadership in Kashmir has shown willingness to talks with New Delhi but sought some clarifications before the start of the dialogue. This is a great opportunity for all the parties involved in the conflict to shun the bias and make up their minds for permanent peace in the subcontinent.