WASHINGTON: The UN Secretary General and the United States have both welcomed an understanding between India and Pakistan for reducing tensions, hoping that this would lead to further talks between the two neighbours.
Pakistan and India announced on Thursday that they had recommitted themselves to the 2003 ceasefire arrangement at the Line of Control (LoC) and agreed to address the ‘core issues’ that could undermine peace and stability.
In its first statement on occupied Kashmir on Thursday, the Biden administration urged India and Pakistan to hold direct talks on the issue and welcomed their agreement to de-escalate tensions along the LoC.
In New York, a spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the UN chief was “encouraged by the joint statement issued by the militaries of India and Pakistan on their agreement to observing the ceasefire at the Line of Control in Kashmir and engaging through established mechanisms”.
The secretary general “hopes that this positive step will provide an opportunity for further dialogue”, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Welcome understanding between Islamabad and Delhi for reducing tensions
The president of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, also welcomed the agreement which, he said, “set an example for others and demonstrates the General Assembly’s values”.
In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ned Price mentioned this agreement in his opening statement at Thursday afternoon news briefing. “We welcome the joint statement between India and Pakistan that the two countries have agreed to maintain strict observance of a ceasefire along the LoC starting immediately,” he said.
“We encourage continued efforts to improve communication between the two sides and to reduce tensions and violence along the LoC,” he added.
His statement prompted journalists to ask as to what extent, if any, did the United States play a role in helping broker this new ceasefire agreement?
“When it comes to the US role, we continue to support direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern,” said the State Department spokesman. “And […] we certainly welcome the arrangement that was announced” in the region, he added.
Price said that he and other officials of the Biden administration have been urging the two neighboring countries to reduce their tensions since Jan 20, when Joe Biden took oath as the new US president.
“You’ve heard me say from this podium and others from this administration say that we had called on the parties to reduce tensions along the LoC by returning to that 2003 ceasefire agreement,” he said. “We have been very clear that we condemn the terrorists who seek to infiltrate across the LoC.”
Asked how this effort to “stay neutral” between India and Pakistan would affect the Biden administration’s policies towards Islamabad, Price said: “Pakistan is an important partner with whom we share many interests. We, as I said, have been clear in terms of this issue.”
The US official also referred to Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace talks, as Washington expects Islamabad to stay engaged with the Taliban for restoring peace to the war-ravaged country.
“So clearly, we will be paying close attention, and we urge the Pakistanis to play a constructive role in all of these areas of mutual interest, including in Afghanistan, including with Kashmir, including with our other shared interests,” he said.
Pakistan played a key role in arranging a peace deal between the Taliban and the US signed in Doha in February last year and Washington wants Islamabad to persuade the rebels to stay engaged with the peace process.
“Obviously, Pakistan has an important role to play when it comes to Afghanistan and what takes place across its other border,” Price said.
Meanwhile, a statement Pakistan made at an informal UN forum indicated that Islamabad had concerns about a major Indian aggression along the LoC before their military commanders reached an understanding to reduce tensions.
Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2021