Ceasefire pact

Published November 12, 2016

THE continuous exchange of fire across the Line of Control in Kashmir and the Working Boundary between the armed forces of India and Pakistan has gone on for weeks without an end in sight. But end it must.

The impasse in relations between Pakistan and India falls into three segments. At the very apex lie Kashmir, and an end to terrorism and interference in each other’s territories.

Immediately below are confidence-building measures, trade, communications — especially liberal grant of visas — and cultural exchanges.

Earlier accords hold lessons for Pak-India peace today.

In the lowest segment lies the first hurdle which the parties must overcome if they are to climb to the other two in the pyramid of peace. It is a durable, guaranteed ceasefire.

Though India and Pakistan went to war three times — in 1947, 1965 and 1971 — not once did they conclude a formal ceasefire agreement in writing with the usual internationally recognised provisions. The history of the ad-hoc arrangements that followed at the end of each war provides a lesson which is still relevant; especially of the one in 1948.

Pakistan’s high commissioner to India Abdul Basit struck a powerful blow for peace in a speech in New Delhi late last month. He said that India and Pakistan should formalise the 2003 ceasefire to avoid the situation from “deteriorating further”.

There is every reason to believe that the suggestion, more accurately proposal, was ins­pired by the Pakistan government. The words he used “we would propose that India and Pakistan agree to formalise the 2003 ceasefire understanding. That would help to stop the situation from further deteriorating until we are able to resume talks”. This is his government’s proposal — “we would propose”.

In 1948, both parties accepted the two resolutions of the UN Commission for India and Pakistan, the first one of which, of Aug 13, 1948, said (Part 1A) “the governments of India and Pakistan agree that their respective high commands will issue separately and simultaneously a ceasefire order … within four days … these proposals have been accepted by both governments”.

Later, when they accepted the proposals for a plebiscite, the high commands declared a ceasefire effective at 23.59 hours before the midnight of Jan 1-2, 1949; before the UNCIP adopted its plebiscite proposals in a resolution on Jan 5, 1949.

Important details were filled in the minutes of a meeting of military officials on Jan 15, 1949, under the UNCIP’s auspices. Its military adviser’s note recorded: “On my request, both commanders-in-chief agreed to restore the communications by road between Srinagar and Rawalpindi, and to rebuild the necessary bridges. In addition, telephonic liaisons between these two localities will be restored.”

At the beginning of September 1949, he obtained the agreement of the two armies on the following precise definition of a breach of the ceasefire: “(1) crossing of the ceasefire line; (2) firing and use of explosives within five miles of the ceasefire line without prior warning to the military observers; (3) new wiring or mining of positions; (4) reinforcing of existing defensive positions with men or warlike stores; (5) forward movement from outside into … Jammu and Kashmir of any warlike stores, equipment and personnel other than reliefs and maintenance; and (6) flying of aircraft over the other side’s territory.” They are still relevant.

The 1965 war was ended by the resolution of the Security Council on Sept 20, 1965 which ordered a ceasefire at 7am (GMT) on Sept 22. After the Tashkent Declaration of Jan 10, 1966 the parties arrived at an agreement on Jan 22, on troops withdrawals and “reduction of tension”.

A relevant paragraph 21 read: “In any case where firing takes place on the border it will be investigated on the spot by a joint team consisting of border personnel from both sides within 24 hours of occurrence. Brigade commanders/DIGs responsible for this investigation will be designated by name and appointment sector-wise.”

By then, a ceasefire line had been drawn up at Karachi on July 27, 1949, to be replaced by an agreement on the LoC in 1972. The 1971 war had ended with a mandatory resolution of the Security Council on Dec 21, 1971. The Shimla Agreement (1972) did not add any more details.

Thus, in 2016 we have considerable material to draw upon; not to omit the Sino-Indian Agreement of Sept 7, 1993, “on maintaining peace and tranquillity in the border areas along the Line of Actual Control”. It provides for an agreed reduction of troops and CBMs.

A ceasefire was declared by Pakistan on November 2003, to which both sides agreed two days later, along the LoC, the international boundary and the Actual Ground Position Line in Siachen.

Statesmanship demands acceptance of Pakistan’s proposal followed by a conference of army and diplomatic officials to draw up a ceasefire agreement; this time, complete with all the necessary details.

The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2016



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