The announcement by a senior Indian army officer that India and Pakistan have agreed to “follow the tenets” of the 2003 ceasefire agreement “in letter and spirit” is welcome, particularly for hapless civilians regularly caught in the cross-fire between the two sides on the LoC and the international border. This agreement follows talks between the Directors General of the BSF and Pakistan Rangers, which went ahead despite the fiasco of the NSA-level talks. The ceasefire which had held for long, had allowed civilians living close to the firing line a semblance of normal life. That the forces of the two nations, despite the underlying deep differences, were able to agree on a return to the ceasefire out of concern for civilians underlines the sanity that must prevail, and widen, between India and Pakistan. Yet, the nature of things is that one does not know if the ceasefire agreement will hold. And that is because this development remains an instrumentality of the wider and unresolved Kashmir dispute.
It remains a fact that as long as talks on Kashmir, with Kashmiris as primary stakeholders, are not envisaged and held, there will not be real peace between India and Pakistan or within Kashmir itself. A ceasefire along the LoC and IB is fine, but it should still be seen for what it is: an instrumentality. Here, the onus lies on New Delhi, as it has for long. Remember, the NSA talks were cancelled, simply, because the Modi regime decided to press ahead with so-called, newly-invented ‘red lines’ on Pakistani officials meeting Kashmir’s pro-freedom leaders. This was meant, obviously, to signal that New Delhi feels it can dictate terms and is comfortable with the largely military ‘solution’ to issues in Kashmir. This is neither realistic nor tenable in the long run.
Unfolding – despite the overwhelming Indian military presence in Kashmir, and all the paraphernalia of enforcing the idea of peace, normalcy and democracy – is actually a new phase of armed insurgency. Levels of overt violence, including encounters between militants and Indian forces, are increasing. Every other report suggests that a new generation of youth is joining militant ranks, even as it remains sheer obduracy to wish away the deep alienation Kashmiris feel for India. In sum, the dependence on the military paradigm, even if hostilities come down on the LoC, ensures that violence remains a factor. Sooner or later, New Delhi has to realise that there is no alternative to talks, seriously and sans conditions, on Kashmir.