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September 6, 2022 10:14 pm

Fresh Truce Violation

FOLLOWING 18 months of calm, Pakistan Rangers broke the ceasefire along the Line of Control on Tuesday by firing at a BSF patrol in the Arnia sector of Jammu. A BSF spokesman said that its personnel gave a “befitting reply to the unprovoked firing from the Pakistani side. There was no loss of life or injury to BSF troops. The Indian and Pakistan Armies had on February 25, 2021 announced the ceasefire along the International Border and Line of Control which had since held. The move had come reportedly following an extended back-channel dialogue between the two countries.

The fresh truce violation is therefore a cause of grave concern. For the last one and a half years of the ceasefire, there was already ample evidence of life returning to normal among border dwellers on this side of the LoC. Similarly, there were similar reports from across the LoC. One example that stood out is Battal valley which over the years has been most impacted by the firing. The villagers on both sides also have since resumed economic and social activities.

With Tuesday’s ceasefire violation,  there are apprehensions among the people that things might go back to square one. More so among the people living alongside the LoC. There is already an example of what happened to the original ceasefire agreement between the two nations which was signed in November 2003. By 2010, the agreement had lost its relevance due to frequent ceasefire violations that touched an all-time high in 2020 with over 5,000 incidents of firing and shelling being recorded

It is true that the situation has improved remarkably over the last three years. Protests and stone-throwing have almost disappeared. But it hasn’t changed much on the ground as militancy continues to pose a serious challenge.  It was expected that the issue of militancy could be addressed if India and Pakistan went back to dialogue. The calm borders  between 2003 to 2007 had become an important factor in the normalization of relations between the two neighbours, enabling them to start one of the most promising dialogue process which by the accounts of the top leaders of the two countries who helmed it was close to a breakthrough on Kashmir.

The singular failure of the two countries since the reinstatement of the ceasefire in February 2021 is that they couldn’t restore the dialogue. The alleged back-channel process also seems to have ended. The vacuum, in turn, has further deepened the estrangement and created conditions for fresh bitterness and the consequent violence. It is time that the two neighbours reach out to each other and work towards a sustainable engagement. That will go a long way to usher in peace in the region. But as things stand, one can only hope against hope.

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