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Ceasefire begins
Infiltrators to be shot, India tells Pakistan
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 25
India and Pakistan today took a historic decision of agreeing to observe a ceasefire with effect from midnight tonight along the international border, the Line of Control and the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) in Jammu and Kashmir.

Top government sources told The Tribune that India had made it abundantly clear to Pakistan that the ceasefire was between the two armies and Indian troops would continue to shoot at terrorists trying to infiltrate from Pakistan.

This is the first time when a formal bilateral ceasefire has been agreed between India and Pakistan during peacetime.

The decision was clinched by the Directors-General of Military Operations of India and Pakistan in the course of their weekly conversation today after the two governments had given the go-ahead. The Ministry of External Affairs spokesman read out the one-paragraph statement to reporters.

It was India’s Additional DGMO, Maj-Gen A.S. Bahiya, who spoke to the Pakistani DGMO, Maj-Gen Yusuf Mohammad, as the DGMO, Lt-Gen B.S. Takhar, was out of town. The Indo-Pak DGMOs talk on hotline to each other every Tuesday.

The Indian government took a prompt decision after Pakistan Prime Minister Mir Zafrullah Khan Jamali’s offer on November 23 of a ceasefire along the LoC and expanded the scope of the ceasefire by including the AGPL also, which Pakistan claimed was meant to be covered in Mr Jamali’s offer.

Today’s decision of further expanding the scope of the ceasefire also includes the international border, which extends the ceasefire to India-Pakistan border in Punjab and Rajasthan-Gujarat sectors as well.

The decision to get the ceasefire offer announced by Prime Minister Jamali is a tactical move aimed at India as well as the West as this way it increases the offer’s acceptability. India would have treated with suspicion any such offer had it come from Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf as New Delhi regards General Musharraf as the chief architect of Kargil. In fact, recently General Musharraf had made a ceasefire proposal, which New Delhi was quick to debunk.

Diplomatic sources cited three reasons for Islamabad to make its ceasefire at this point of time. One, Pakistan realised that the hostile reaction of its Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar to India’s 12-point peace offer of October 22 was unwarranted and had diplomatically harmed the country before the international community.

Secondly, the Pakistani offer was a compulsion of domestic politics for General Musharraf who, of late, has been feeling the heat from the jehadis. The increased targeting of Saudi Arabia and Turkey by Islamic terrorists has put General Musharraf in a tight spot internationally. Lowering temperature with India could help Pakistani cause at this juncture.

Thirdly, since smoking the peace pipe with India could divert international and domestic attention for General Musharraf, it was only in the fitness of things to improve Indo-Pak relations that can pave the way for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to attend the upcoming SAARC summit in Islamabad from January 4 to 6.

The Pakistanis seemed to be succeeding in preparing a conducive atmosphere for Mr Vajpayee’s Islamabad visit as the indications are that preparations have already started in the Government of India in this regard and various ministries, departments and agencies have already started working on briefing points and papers.

However, the Government of India is still tenuous about General Musharraf’s real intentions and the all-pervasive view in the Indian establishment is that General Musharraf cannot dismount the tiger of terrorism that he willingly mounted years ago.

A clear signal of this, according to diplomatic sources, is available by the Pakistani Government’s recent decisions of banning six “transmuted” terrorist outfits.


Powell calls up Sinha
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 25
US Secretary of State Colin Powell today called up External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha and appreciated the positive developments in Indo-Pak relations.

During the five-minute conversation, Mr Sinha expressed the hope that infiltration would come to a stop and added that India would have to deal with infiltrators if the problem persisted. Mr Sinha told Mr Powell that India was happy to respond to Pakistan’s ceasefire offer.


Guns fall silent on border
Our Correspondent

Jammu, November 25
Guns have started falling silent on the 1260 km-long India-Pakistan border since last evening following the “positive response” given by Delhi to Islamabad’s proposal on ceasefire.

Field reports said that while there was no exchange of fire between the two sides in Kupwara, Uri and Poonch sectors since yesterday evening, Jhanghar and Kalsian areas of Rajori witnessed minor firing.

The Defence Ministry sources said that during the past over three months “we have had witnessed intermittent but heavy firing and shelling in various sectors daily.” “The intensity of firing has suddenly died following the ceasefire proposal accepted by both sides though it was to be enforced from Wednesday.”

No doubt a majority of people in the troubled Jammu and Kashmir have expressed “delight”, many are still skeptical about the success of the ceasefire. Their doubts are based on two events. India had declared the non-initiation of counter-insurgency operations in November 2000 but it could not last beyond six months after the rate of killing of security personnel at the hands of the militants increased.

In July 2000, the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit had declared a unilateral ceasefire which lasted for eight days when those, including Abdul Majid Dar, chief commander (operations), came under pressure from the United Jehad Council in Pakistan, a conglomerate of several rebel outfits to suspend the ceasefire.

It is in the context of these two developments that politicians and security experts keep their fingers crossed. They are of the view that “there may be agencies across the border that could sabotage the ceasefire because a section in the Pakistan army and in the ISI have always opted for a belligerent approach towards India.”

However, the acceptance of the ceasefire by both sides has raised new hopes among people who have been wishing for peace for the past 14 years. The most happy people are border villagers who have been the main victims of the exchange of fire by the two armies on the LoC and on the International Border. As a result of firing and shelling, more than 80,000 people had to migrate from their ancestral villages during the military build-up.



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