THE re-affirmation of the 2003 ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control will go a long way to ease the life along of the border dwellers on both sides of the border. Since 2010 when violations of 2003 agreement became common, hundreds of civilians and security personnel have been killed on both sides. What is more, the border residents have had to suffer displacement forcing New Delhi to build concrete bunkers for them away from the border. The situation had become worse since the revocation of Article 370 in August 2019. According to data provided by the Ministry of Defence in Parliament recently, there were 5133 instances of ceasefire violations along the LoC and other areas in Jammu, resulting in 46 fatal casualties, and 3,479 ceasefire violations in 2019. Similarly, according to data from Pakistan, there were 3,097 ceasefire violations in 2020 leading to death of 28 people on Pakistani side and injuries to 257 others. Also, figures from reports in Pakistani press say there have been over 13,600 ceasefire violations since 2003.
So, a halt to the frequent firing exchanges will make a redeeming difference to the lives of lakhs of border residents on both sides of the Line of Control. But it won't change anything as far as the situation in the Valley where militancy continues to reign supreme. In 2020, the number of recruits joining militancy saw a 22 per cent rise to 174 in 2020 from 143 in 2019. Last year also as many as 225 militants were killed by security forces - 207 of them in Kashmir Valley and 18 in the Jammu region.
The issue of militancy can be addressed if India and Pakistan go back to dialogue. Talks could go a long way to reduce the tension between the neighbours. The calm borders had become an important factor in the normalization of the relations between the neighbours, enabling them to start one of the most promising dialogue processes through 2003-2007 which by accounts of the top leaders of the two countries who were at the helm of it was close to a breakthrough on Kashmir.
But the challenge for the two countries would be to sustain a dialogue should it start. In past many such attempts have been aborted by a major attack in India traced to elements in Pakistan or sometimes the rigid negotiating positions of the two countries. It would be interesting to see how the two countries negotiate their respective conditionalities before reaching out to each other. Here's hoping that the anticipated fresh engagement between the parties reaches its logical conclusion in a resolution of all the issues dividing the two countries for the past seven decades.
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