Armistice at LoC: ‘All Eyes On Backchannel Diplomacy Now’

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New Dawn at LoC. File Photo

Resumption of the Diplomacy Era with the White House rejig has already started lowering some rigid global guards and resurrected the olive branch policy now fast branching out in the valley with silent gun phase at the Line of Control.

UNLIKE last fall when the frontier flare-up badly bled his clan on the cutting edge known to explode every now and then, Abdul Rehman, 68, felt relieved on February 25, 2021, when he took a walk around his hamlet in Uri’s Sultan Deki.

The elder’s sense of relief came after armistice was announced by the two warring armies on the Line of Control (LoC) — the bloodline dividing Kashmir into two halves.

“I hope we won’t be running for our lives again after this announcement,” Rehman said. “We want peace to prevail, as we have paid through our bodies and body parties to populate this hostile zone.”

At least, now, said Irshad, a villager from Uri’s Kamalkote area, his people won’t be living under the constant shadow of shell pounding.

“It’s painful to lose your loved ones in this madness,” he said. “Let’s hope this be a new dawn in our lives.”

Shell-wrecked shed in a village near the LoC.

The same sense of relief was felt at the “godforsaken” heights of Teetwal, where Indo-Pak troops stand guard with war-stores.

“Today’s announcement revived our memories of the 2003 ceasefire,” said Mushtaq Bhat, a social worker of Teetwal.

“If only these guns disappear from our lives, we would thrive just like the olden times.”

Revival of 2003 Ceasefire?

After LoC became a popular route to armed movement in Kashmir during 1990s, the Indo-Pak armies made it a new fire front. “Before 2003,” said Lt. Gen. (retd.) DS Hooda, “the situation along the LoC was terrible.”

Following years of bloody confrontations, the NDA-I led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee entered into the 2003 LoC ceasefire with Islamabad. “But it was a verbal agreement between the two sides which lasted till 2012,” Hooda said.

The ceasefire was violated on January 8, 2013 when New Delhi alleged that a Pakistani Border Action Team (BAT) ambushed an Indian Army patrol and killed two soldiers.

Since then, the LoC only became the raging battlefield for the two nuke-armed neighbours. Frontier guns even refused to thaw amid pandemic—with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh lately informing Rajya Sabha that Pakistan resorted to 5,133 incidents of ceasefire violations in 2020 in which 46 government force personnel were killed.

But with the revival of the LoC ceasefire, many say, premier Narendra Modi has only followed the footsteps of the poet prime minister of India.

A Surrender?

However, those who understand the pulse of South Asian politics call it a “two-pronged thaw” bereft of the bearings on the altered landscape’s lingering fate.

There’s a patent paranoia that the silent guns at the bloody line with the fresh Delhi-Islamabad pact might only perpetuate another transient period of bonhomie before bofors would once again fire on the bodies of Kashmiris on the either side of the divided line.

With beleaguered unionist and separatist camp univocally calling it a “peace move”, the K-watchers term the LoC quiet as the step towards the normalization of post-August 5, 2019 Kashmir.

“If this thaw is limited as it seems,” senior scribe Muzamil Jaleel said, “it is nothing but a move towards normalisation of the changed facts on ground.”

Peace is important, he added, but if this cessation of hostilities don’t change situation in Kashmir positively, it will only result in making unilaterally changed goal posts on ground a permanent feature.

“In that case,” Jaleel believes, “it must be called what it is – a surrender. And if these bilaterally tactics of war and peace don’t bring relief to us, we must think about us…. think why we are always.”

Reacting to his social media take, another senior Kashmiri journalist, Khursheed Wani said, “Yes….we [Kashmiris] are dispensable.”

Incidentally, Wani said, it happened on a day “when our ‘lion’ had humiliatingly surrendered decades ago…”

To which, Jaleel replied, “it is no longer only about the lion…such surrenders are happening again and again.”

Meanwhile, calling the LoC ceasefire as a fresh phase of peace posturing, journalist Peerzada Ashiq asked: “Will this engagement pan out just like post 1953, where all post-August 9 and post Sheikh-era measures were normalised?”

However, Srinagar-based editor Najeeb Mubarki believes that a sense of desperation and anger in Kashmir will only grow with this move.

“Surprising,” Mubarki wrote on social media, “this seemingly sudden development of potential talks; primarily as India has left nothing very much to talk about. In fact, has always used the idea of talks, or talks as leading to more talks, as a holding measure while it furthers grabbing Kashmir even more.”

Virtual Flare

The move already set the twitter in tizzy with many users hailing it.

“Good that 2 NSA’s talked,” tweeted journalist Mariana Baabar. “Pakistan should display humility and stop gloating that it brought India to agree to ceasefire at LoC. Pakistanis happy that there will be no body bags. Let Pak not rock the boat. There are no winners at LoC.”

Peace and stability at borders are must for nation’s prosperity and progress, said netizen Komal Mahajan. “It is a big and positive development.”

BJP member Gautam Aggarwal termed the development as the second India-Pakistan joint statement since the Pulwama attack.

This development will be beneficial for the region and the civilian population residing in the area, said netizen Saima Iqbal. “Largely, it is an attempt to bring down violence level along the LoC.”

However, summing up the debate, a social media user said, “Waiting for the next moves that might happen within next few weeks…. It will be interesting to see what and all has been negotiated in backchannel diplomacy.”

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Zaid Bin Shabir

A media graduate from LPU, Zaid Bin Shabir is a Srinagar based journalist whose works have appeared in many local and international publications.

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