On Thursday, the Indian and Pakistan Armed Forces surprisingly announced a ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. The Directors General of Military Operations of India and Pakistan released a joint statement saying that they have held discussions regarding establishing a hotline contact mechanism and agreed to a ceasefire along the LoC starting from February 25.
The latest ceasefire agreement between the two sides comes nearly 17 years after such an agreement was first signed between India and Pakistan, which was broadly held till the 2016 Uri attack. Since 2018, the tensions have only escalated between the two sides, causing a violation of the ceasefire agreement with more than 5,000 incidents reported this year alone.
Interestingly, the latest ceasefire agreements between the two militaries come when Pakistan faces its toughest challenges – both domestically and internationally. Even though the latest ceasefire is being observed in India with caution, strangely, the Pakistan government and its security establishment have welcomed it with much fanfare. Not just in Pakistan, even the peaceniks and pro-Pakistan sympathisers in India are excited about the ceasefire agreement hoping that this could open avenues for rapprochement between the two sides and lead to normalisation of the diplomatic relations.
Though such unwritten understanding does not hold any large value, the ceasefire along the LoC, for now, has given some breathing space for Pakistan. The desperation of Pakistan to achieve some peace along the LoC through a ceasefire was evident from the statements put out by Moeed Yusuf, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s key advisor on security affairs. As the two sides announced the agreement, Yusuf said that the outcome was due to the “behind the scenes” contacts and hoped that the agreement would open more roads in future.
Desperate Pakistan ecstatic about ceasefire
Moeed Yusuf, who holds the post of special assistant to Khan on national security and strategic policy planning, revealed how Pakistan had to put all its efforts for many months and years to convince India on an agreement to have a ceasefire along the LoC. He also contended that the joint statement was a victory for Pakistan, as India did not initially agree to a ceasefire.
Most importantly, Yusuf stressed that Pakistan was “repeatedly saying that we want peace and we want that there should be a ceasefire at the LoC” so that innocent civilians are not killed. According to the people familiar with developments in Pakistan, Yusuf has played a key role in efforts to achieve a breakthrough with India and has the backing of the powerful military, including Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.
If one takes a closer look at the latest ceasefire agreement and the subsequent statement released by the Pakistani establishment, it is rather evident that Pakistan seeks a ‘detente’ with India as it has become extremely costly for the terror-state to wage a proxy war against India continuously.
Why is Pakistan craving for ‘peace’ with India now?
It is not an unknown fact today that Pakistan is facing turmoil, both internationally and within the country. The internal dynamics in the Islamic republic has added to the increasing international pressure on the Pakistan government to act against the terror infrastructure it nurtured all these years. The mounting pressure on Pakistan seems to have a bearing on the ceasefire agreement as well. Multiple factors are behind Pakistan to engage in talks with India even as it continues to inflict terror in Kashmir.
The fear of sanctions by international watchdogs for failing to act on the terror appartus and the gradual decline of Pakistan’s relevance in the global power architecture due to its active support to terror has now been pushed the Islamic country into a corner. Facing the heat, Pakistan has been forced to take some tough decisions and rapproachment with India to achieve a short term peace is one of them.
The terror-state of Pakistan is imploding as it faces innumerable challenges both domestically and internationally. The influential role of the Pakistan military in its domestic politics and over-reliance on terror as a state policy to confront its neighbours has backfired the Islamic country. On its western front, where it shares borders with Afghanistan, there are no clear signs of any definitive policy as the United States continue to drag their feet on Afghan peace talks with the Taliban. Pakistan intends to play a major role in Afghan security once an agreement between the United States and Taliban is achieved and hence has invested more monetary resources and troops on its Western front.
On its eastern front, it is not an unknown fact that Pakistan has outsourced its ‘holy war’ against India to the Mujahideens and Islamic terror groups, which it often treats as its second-tier militia. Several POK and Kashmir-based terror groups have become a mainstay of Pakistan’s India policy and have used these terror groups to bleed India with thousand cuts.
‘Terror’ as a state-policy is not yielding results for Pakistan
The coming of Narendra Modi and the aggressive approach of the Indian Armed Forces, which is vigorously carrying out counter-terror operations both inside the valley and deep inside the enemy’s territory, has forced Pakistan to rethink its state-sponsored terror policy. With its conventional Army reluctant to face Indian troops and the terror-groups, it sponsored all along is being eliminated by Indian forces, Pakistan has no choice but to seek peace with India along the Line of Control.
Another important factor that has forced Pakistan to plead for peace also emanates from the ongoing actions by the global watchdogs such as FATF, which have been extremely critical of Pakistan’s dubious standards of using terror apparatus as a diplomatic tool to negotiate both in Afghanistan and India. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which monitors terror financing, has placed Pakistan on the grey-list for almost three years now, leading to massive losses worth billions for the country. There are possibilities that sanctions could be imposed against Pakistan and place it under FATF’s blacklist if it fails to act against terror groups.
Perhaps, Pakistan hopes that a thaw in relations with India could give them the much-needed space and time to address other issues that threaten the very survival of the country.
Adding to increasing global pressure, there have been reports that China is forcing the Imran Khan government to take steps to re-engage with India. China, which has invested billions in developing its ambitious CPEC corridor in the Indian territory of POK, has been facing tremendous security challenges, both in PoK and Balochistan, where it is building a port at Gwadar. The Chinese have run into deep trouble in Balochistan and Gilgit- Baltistan as they continue to face stiff resistance from the local people.
The massive loss of face for China in the recent stand-off with India along the LAC has also limited Pakistan’s options, which miscalculated India’s strategic response to China’s belligerence on the northern border. The China-India disengagement process has altered Pakistan’s choices now, leaving it with an option of seeking peace with India. With India has no incentive to talk to Pakistan, any dialogue on peace has to start from Pakistan, and it has made its first move by holding talks with the Indian DGMO to announce a ceasefire agreement.
Pakistan also understands that it has reached an endgame in Kashmir as normalcy is slowly returning in the valley. Today, the people of Jammu and Kashmir are gradually entering the mainstream by rejecting Pakistan-based separatists. The Kashmiris are rejoicing the progress that has been made ever since the controversial Article 370 was abrogated. The Kashmir landscape has gone a major shift in the last two years that is openly visible today. There are no more funerals for terrorists, incidents of stone-pelting have reduced as there is a visible change in the mindset of the people of Kashmir. The Kashmiris want long-lasting peace and are aware that it is definitely not Pakistan that is going to deliver it for them.
India negotiates on its strength, ready to tackle Pakistan challenge
Perhaps, Pakistan has now understood that it cannot continue to inflict terror on India without paying a cost to it. Narendra Modi government’s aggressive posture towards Pakistan, especially on the issue of inflicting terror inside Kashmir, has forced Pakistan to amend its way. Ever since the Modi government took reign at the centre, Pakistan’s policy has always been resolute. Soon after coming to power, PM Modi invited Pakistan Prime Minister to his swearing ceremony and followed it with his surprise visit to Pakistan. The goodwill gesture and the intent shown by PM Modi towards achieving peace with Pakistan was honest and real.
However, Pakistan’s treachery was out in the open when it carried out the Uri terror attacks in 2016 and trained terrorists to carry out the Pulwama terror attack in 2019. With Pakistan continuing to use terror as the state policy against India, the Modi government seems to have learnt its lesson the hard way.
When its come to active dialogue with Pakistan, the Indian government has categorically stated that talks and terror cannot go hand-in-hand. There is no engagement between the two sides today. India has nothing to gain from speaking to Pakistan or having an active engagement with the hostile neighbour. The Indian security establishment has reiterated that the talks between the two sides will happen on its terms and not how Pakistan wants it.
The latest ceasefire agreement, initiated by Pakistan, does not stop India from acting on terror groups emanating from Pakistan. The Indian security establishment is now closely watching how Pakistan would uphold the terms of the agreement. It also understands that such informal ceasefire agreements with Pakistan should be taken with extreme caution. Hence, it is not surprising to see that neither the Indian security establishment nor the strategic observers have shown any enthusiasm over the latest ceasefire agreement in contrast to the excitement shown by Pakistan and a few peaceniks in India.
One has to see whether Pakistan keeps its words to keep peace along the borders or indulge in its usual tricks of using terror as a state policy to inflict terror on India. Nevertheless, India seems to be well prepared to tackle the Pakistan challenge this time with more intent and vigour if Pakistan violates the ceasefire agreement in the near future.