NEW DELHI: Guns fell silent on the Line of Control and the International Border India shares with Pakistan on Wednesday-Thursday midnight in a surprising de-escalation of tensions after both sides agreed to strictly observe all bilateral ceasefire agreements and protocols.
The truce came about two weeks after China announced disengagement of troops in the Pangong lake in Ladakh from stand-off positions and both sides pulled back their troops.
In the space of a fortnight, both the volatile China and Pakistan frontiers have become tranquil, indicating hectic back channel diplomacy, giving peace an unexpected booster shot in the often troubled neighbourhood.
“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,” both countries stated in a joint statement. Indian Army officials attributed the truce to the realisation on both sides of collateral damage as innocent civilian lives were needlessly lost in the cross-border firing.
“One of the aims is to safeguard the lives of innocent civilians as we are bound to retaliate to ceasefire violations,” said a senior Army officer. This agreement will be a big relief for the people living on the border and their cattle.
The Union home ministry has built community bunkers in the villages along the LoC to safeguard the lives of civilians caught in the border crossfire. As many as 70 civilians on the Indian side of the LoC were killed in the cross-border firing between 2018 and 2020 while 341 others were injured during the same period. However, there won’t be any let up in the deployment of forces.
The decision to strictly enforce truce was taken by the Directors General of Military Operations on both sides, who agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns, which have the propensity to disturb peace.
“India desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan. We have always maintained that we are committed to addressing issues, if any, in a peaceful bilateral manner. On key issues, our position remains unchanged,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said. India has maintained that there can be no dialogue with Pakistan if cross-border terror does not end.
No let up in taking on terrorists
The truce will not stop the Army’s fight against infiltrating terrorists. “The operational posture won’t change and we will follow the policy of zero tolerance to any action from the other side,” an officer said
(Inputs from Pushkar Banakar)