A Joint Statement released by the Ministry of Defence informed that subsequent to talks between the DGsMO of India and Pakistan both sides will cease firing across the border. The statement reads, “In the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders, the two DGsMO agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns which have propensity to disturb peace and lead to violence. Both sides agreed for strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing along the Line of Control and all other sectors with effect from midnight 24/25 February, 2021.
The two sides had agreed to a ceasefire agreement in 2003, after which there was considerable reduction in firing incidents across the Line of Control (LoC). Use of artillery had not been witnessed for long years after that, though cross-border firing had been resorted to. However, at a certain stage the Pakistanis used motors, slowing graduating to higher calibre artillery guns. It was in November, 2016 that the Indian government had first reported use of artillery guns by the Indian Army.
The use of artillery had only increased thereafter and the Pakistanis have often used these long range platforms to even target border villages. Such artillery fires invited retaliation by India. In an article in Outlook on 21 October, 2019 Maj Gen Ashok Mehta wrote, “The weekend overnight flare-up on the Line of Control (LoC) was not a surgical strike but a precision artillery strike by 155 mm Bofors guns, infrequently used in the exchange of fire. The artillery assault was apparently in response to Pakistani Army firing in the Tangdhar sector, in which two Indian soldiers and one civilian were killed.”
Pakistan is known to intensify cross-border firing while trying to infiltrate terrorists across the LoC. While the firing forces the Indians to take cover, terrorist groups try to get across the fence and reach their designated staging areas in depth on our side of the fence.
Moeed Yusuf, Special Advisor to Imran Khan on Security Affairs hailed the agreement between the DGsMO, calling it a victory for Pakistan’s diplomacy. He went on to say, “This is Pakistan’s victory as we have wanted peace and wanted the ceasefire at the LoC. Why should innocent civilians die there?” He opined that the agreement had resulted on account of protracted endeavours by the Pakistani establishment.
While any pause any hostilities is welcome, should infiltration attempts continue unabated, the situation is unlikely to remain peaceful for too long. Hopefully, the use of artillery will not be resorted to by the Pakistanis. Artillery exchanges allow engagement in depth and unnecessary casualties to civilian population.
How will the agreement between the DGsMO affect the Financial Action Task Force’s evaluation of Pakistan when it meets to decide on Pakistan possibly slipping in to the FATF’s blacklist, is of import. The FATF will be expected to call a spade a spade, having given enough time to Pakistan to cease its support to terrorist groups.
The Joint Statement also states, ”Both sides reiterated that existing mechanisms of hotline contact and border flag meetings will be utilised to resolve any unforeseen situation or misunderstanding.” Hopefully, the need for such interactions will not be called for, neither too often, nor too early.
Brig SK Chatterji (Retd)