The state of relations between Pakistan and India is so poor right now that any sign of progress in the right direction is greeted with relief. After weeks of unprovoked firing across the Line of Control by Indian forces, including one incident where four civilians were killed in Sialkot, the DGMOs of both countries have now agreed to a ceasefire across the LoC and Working Border. They have also agreed to respond to any violations with restraint and by discussing it during the weekly hotline call between the DGMOs or through border flag meetings. Of course, there have been any such agreements in the past and a ceasefire has technically been in place since 2003 although that has rarely been observed. The difference this time is that both sides issued nearly identical statements and, for once, did not immediately blame the other country for being responsible for the violations. The hope is that this time better sense prevails and both countries abide by the ceasefire. Even if there is little possibility of a larger breakthrough – such as a meeting between the heads of government – peace can only be eventually achieved by starting small. If both countries can convince each other that they are honest negotiators who will abide by any agreement, that in itself can lay the groundwork for progress on larger issues.
Before we get too optimistic, however, we should keep in mind that India has become more brazen than ever in its unprovoked aggression. In the two years since Narendra Modi took power, there have been near 3000 incidents of Indian firing across the LoC which have claimed the lives of close to a hundred Pakistani civilians. The most notorious of these was after the Uri attack, when India indiscriminately fired on civilian areas in what it laughably called “surgical strikes.” Its increased brutalities in Occupied Kashmir and its brazen efforts to undermine and isolate us internationally show that the country and its leader are in no mood for peace. Even on a matter unrelated to militancy, such as water, it has refused compromise. Hoping that this détente leads to recognition on India’s part that it needs to allow diplomacy a chance is overly optimistic. As much as it is to be hoped that this LoC agreement represents a new dawn, bitter experience has taught us to be more circumspect. However, on hope hinges the future – and it is with that hope that we look forward to some sense of peace on the border.