Indo-Pak ceasefire and resolution of Kashmir issue

March 15, 2021 11:39 AM

The current ceasefire between India and Pakistan countries surprised everyone in not only both these countries but the entire world.

indo pak ceasefireTalks that were held by the respective Director General Military Operations [DGMOs] of the two countries agreed to end ceasefire violations on the LOC. (Representational image: IE)

By Farooq Wani, 

The current ceasefire between India and Pakistan countries surprised everyone in not only both these countries but the entire world. That the two nuclear states have agreed to end exchange of fire along the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) has come as a big relief to those worried that the ongoing tension could escalate into an ugly situation.

Talks that were held by the respective Director General Military Operations [DGMOs] of the two countries agreed to end ceasefire violations on the LOC. This move will put an end to civilian casualties and create a more conducive environment for peace talks and negotiations. The ceasefire was largely praised by both domestic and foreign audiences and was considered a positive step in the overall South Asian security calculus, especially when the region is experiencing tensions arising out of China’s muscle-flexing to establish its regional ascendency in the sub-continent.

De-escalation along LoC will also bring down huge expenditure being incurred by the armies of both countries and the savings thus accrued could be gainfully utilized for developmental work and poverty alleviation. However, even though it’s a bilateral agreement, there’s also the possibility of a nudge in this direction coming from China since it now wants to play a dominant role in the “global economic recovery spectrum” and would like to shun acrimonious issues pertaining to its colonies like Pakistan. All said and done, Beijing can after all, afford to change track with the drop of a hat!

If we go into history, there have been plenty of ceasefire violations along LoC and IB but these never provoked a war. Yet India and Pakistan have fought full-scale wars in 1965 and 1971- the former was due to Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s abortive bid to annex Kashmir by using his regular army disguised as ‘razakars’ (civilian volunteers) and the latter by Gen Yahya Khan in a bid to save the then East Pakistan from gaining independence. So, it’s difficult to say for sure whether this ceasefire will last till all issues including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute is resolved once for all.

Speculations are rife that this ceasefire has happened only because of outside pressure and the rationale behind this viewpoint is that if the both the countries resume LoC trade, it will give impetus to the shattered economy of Pakistan due to Covid-19 and this will at least curb (if not eliminate) infiltration of militants into J&K. Logically speaking, overall benefits for the populace residing in border areas as well as hinterland should act as an effective counter to any misadventure. Think Tanks believe that good sense might have prevailed between countries to enforce this ceasefire as it would prove to be good for Indo-Pak relations-both now and in the future.

It’s very much possible that as far as parleys that resulted in ceasefire are concerned, besides pressure from Beijing, Islamabad’s decision may have also been driven by the need to win Washington’s favour as well as impress FATF, which has retained Pakistan on its ‘Grey List’ till June this year. Since Pakistan’s charade of targeting terrorists of “all hue and colour” has been rejected by FATF, it has no choice but to do everything possible to try and get out of the economically disastrous consequences of being in the Grey List of this international terrorist funding watchdog.

India cannot afford to set aside the reality that Pakistan has traditionally been a distrustful neighbour and therefore the best option is to remain positive about the possible success of the ceasefire initiative but remain vigilant. This is evident from Army Commander, Northern Command Lt Gen YK Joshi assertion that “I want to assure that this ceasefire will have no bearing on the counter militant operations and we will maintain our alertness.” Hence, “the onus of creating an enabling environment for further progress” rests not with India as Imran Khan suggests but with Pakistan as any provocation by the Pakistani forces will invite strong retaliation from Indian army.

Having served as India’s Defence Attaché to China, Lt Gen Joshi understands Beijing’s manoeuvres well, which is evident from his mature handling of the situation that led to disengagement of Indian and Chinese troops in Eastern Ladakh. At the political level too, the Government of India has managed this crisis with aplomb, earning international support and Pakistan which was trying to fish in troubled waters possibly realised that if it continues to exhibit animosity against India, it too could also face global isolation. So, the developments in Ladakh could well be one of the factors behind Islamabad’s decision to go in for the ceasefire agreement.

The important question which arises is “what is at stake for Pakistan here?” The answer can be found in the fundamental rule of international relations wherein every state pursues its own interests. Thus, while the Kashmir issue may be high on Islamabad’s agenda, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which it considers to be a “game-changer” that will fix the country’s ailing economy is far more important. Accordingly, a peaceful environment created by the easing of Sino-Indian tensions and Indo-Pak acrimony on LoC will help diversion of resources to speed up CPEC projects.

Lastly, with the Biden administration highlighting the importance of a stable Afghanistan and along with Pakistan recognising the importance of India in the dialogue process, Islamabad has no choice but to cease hostilities with India. However, Islamabad must not relent on its original stance on Kashmir and instead of banking on the international community, use this opportunity to continue to have a bilateral dialogue with New Delhi on the Kashmir issue. While the jury is out on how long this ceasefire shall last, it’s vital that Pakistan doesn’t lose sight of its larger policy objectives on both sides of the border.

(The author is Editor Brighter Kashmir, Columnist, TV Commentator, and a Political Analyst. Email: Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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