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Presence of non-state actors poses a significant challenge to the Indo-Pak ceasefire

An al-Qaida offshoot in the Kashmir Valley has expressed its displeasure at the ceasefire agreement announced last week by India and Pakistan at the LoC and other sectors. The group has termed it as an act of betrayal. This speaks to how the resilience of the ceasefire agreement between the two countries will be tested by non-state actors.

The ceasefire is indeed a significant development. It’s come after three consecutive years of increase in ceasefire violations. In 2020, there were 5,133 violations, an increase of over a 100% since 2018. These violations have resulted in regular fatalities, with government data indicating that 70 civilians have died in India in the last three years. Moreover, the respite on the western border is helpful when the disengagement negotiations on the LAC with China are underway. One of the positive features of the current ceasefire is that it appears to have the backing of the Pakistan army and the joint statement said that existing mechanisms will be used to resolve any “unforeseen situation or misunderstanding”.

But none of these features insulate the process from terror groups who have arisen in the wake of Pakistan’s strategic approach of using them to further its aims. This risk makes it prudent not to let expectations run away after last week’s announcement. A ceasefire is welcome but the history of the bilateral relationship has been characterised by sharp swings from euphoria to an experience of utter betrayal. Even now, far from indicating that Pakistan is willing to give up terrorism as an instrument of state policy, PM Imran Khan has said that the onus is on India to create an “enabling environment for further progress”. While being “cautiously optimistic” is understandable, India’s guard must stay solidly up.

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This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.



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