Last month, India and Pakistan agreed to strictly observe a ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) as agreed by the two neighbors in 2003. It comes after close to 7,000 incidents of crossfire across the Line of Control, accompanied by rising invective by the two countries’ leaders.
Since the dramatic February announcement, the neighbours hastened towards bonhomie and have been discussing issues as regards water sharing. There are already signs of a further thaw in the relations. The two neighbours have agreed to cooperate on healthcare under the aegis of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, and there is talk of Pakistani cricketers playing in India later this year, and of reviving negotiations on religious pilgrimages.
Most of the analysts from India and Pakistan see the ceasefire as a purely strategic move, serving their short-term interests. For New Delhi, it is seen as a move to calm western borders amid negotiations with China. For Pakistan, it’s also seen about calming eastern border while Afghan negotiations gather momentum.
Whatever the reasons, these apparent small steps are good in view of the situation of the last few years during which the relations between the two neighbors plunged to their lowest. Islamabad drastically downgraded its relationship with New Delhi following the latter’s abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019.
Given the consequent state of their relationship, it had appeared unlikely that a dialogue between them could resume anytime soon. Unthinkable has happened since then, regardless of the fact that Pakistan had insisted that there will be no talks with India untill latter reverses the decisions taken on 5 August 2019.
It appears that this condition has been given up by islamabad just as New Delhi seems to have overlooked its demand that for the talks to resume, Islamabad will have to end cross-border terrorism.
Nobody could have imagined things would move so rapidly. It appears now a matter of time before the two nationals resume a formal dialogue on a broad range.
As past experience shows, even sustained initiatives by the leaders from New Delhi and Islamabad have foundered on relatively lower levels of hostility, because openly-expressed distrust kept the field open for spoilers to step in. In all situations, both governments benefit from public backing for the steps they have currently taken. It is hoped that the dialogue this time not only sustains but reaches its logical conclusion. People of the two nations also need to play a crucial part of the lasting peace in the region.