Less than a week after the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan agreed to implement the ceasefire pact of 2003 in “letter and spirit”, active hostilities again broke out between the border guards of two countries early Sunday.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir said on Sunday that the government would be forced to revoke the Ramzan ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir if “cross-border terrorism” by Pakistan continued, PTI reported.
In May, the government asked the armed forces not to launch any operations in the state during the month of Ramzan. However, alleged ceasefire violations by Pakistan across the border have been reported in Jammu and adjacent districts for nearly three weeks, causing casualties among several civilians and soldiers.
“We had decided to suspend operations in view of Ramzan,” Ahir told reporters in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal. “However, there is no respite in cross-border terrorism and ceasefire violations on the part of Pakistan. We will be constrained to revoke the ceasefire agreement.”
The provisions of the Ramzan ceasefire allow India to retaliate if Pakistan initiates unprovoked firing, he said, adding that India believes in the “no-first-strike” policy.
The Home Ministry had said that the security forces could retaliate if attacked, “or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people”.
Two Border Security Force (BSF) jawans were killed and seven civilian injured in ceasefire violation of Pakistani border guards in Pargwal sector of Akhnoor area of Jammu and Kashmir, the officials in Jammu said. Firing and shelling by Pakistani border guards was reported also from neighbouring Kanhachak area.
They said that the Pakistan’s Punjab Rangers resorted to “unprovoked and indiscriminate” firing along the International Border (IB) – called Working Boundary (WB) by Islamabad- at around 2 am on Sunday. “They targeted a BSF Border Outpost (BoPs) and civilian areas in Pargwal sector of the IB at 2 am,” the officials said.
The BSF said that its assistance sub-inspector S.N.Yadav and Constable V.K. Pandey were injured in the Pakistani firing. “They were rushed to a nearby medical facility but succumbed soon,” a spokesman o the paramilitary force said in Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir. The spokesman added that the BSF retaliated to Pakistani firing “effectively and strongly.”
BSF’s Inspector General (Jammu Frontier) Ram Awtar while commenting on the latest ceasefire violation said that Pakistan has yet again proved that it cannot be trusted upon. “As you all know Pakistan never keeps its words. It is not reliable and trustworthy as after DGMOs talks agreeing for ceasefire they have resorted to unprovoked and indiscriminate firing both at our BoPs and civilian areas in Pargwal and Kanhachak areas ”, he told reporter in Jammu at the sidelines of wreath laying ceremony of the two slain jawans.
“It was not a sniping, but ceasefire violation, in which two of our jawans sustained injuries and later attained martyrdom. We have given a strong and befitting reply, but so far the damage across the border could not be ascertained,” he said. He added, “We did not target the civilian areas across the border, but only retaliated to cross border firing.” Replying questions, he said there were no fresh inputs of attempt of infiltration amid ceasefire violation by Pakistani border guards.
A report from Jammu said that the exchanges of small and medium weapons and mortar guns involving as many as ten BSF BoPs are going on since Sunday morning. On the Indian side about 35 villages have been affected in fresh firing and shelling, the report said.
It is not yet known if there have been any casualties on the Pakistani side too. Islamabad has not reacted to the Indian charge, so far.
On May 29, the DGMOs of the two countries had agreed to “fully implement” the ceasefire pact of 2003 in “letter and spirit” forthwith to stop border skirmishes along their borders in J&K. After weeks of flare up, the two military commanders had reviewed the situation along the Line of Control (LoC) and the IB during a conversation over the special hotline.The hotline contact was initiated by the Pakistani DGMO.
Following the conversation between India’s DGMO Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan and his Pakistani counterpart Major General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, the two armies issued identical statements saying both sides agreed to implement the ceasefire understanding reached between them in November 2003.
After the announcement and guns falling silent, the jubilant border dwellers in Jammu region, both on the IB and the LoC, had started returning to their homes which had been abandoned by them amid intense clashes between the facing troops in May. On the Pakistani side too, the hope that they would be allowed to live normal life again had rekindled among border residents.
According to the Indian officials, the Pakistani firing and shelling which had continued for nine days in May in Arnia, RS Pura, Ramgarh, Samba and Hiranagar sectors of the IB had claimed the lives of two BSF men and ten civilians whereas scores others were wounded. With these deaths, they had said, the toll in Pakistani firing during ceasefire violations along the IB and the LoC in the State had risen to 46 including 20 Army and BSF personnel.
The Pakistan authorities had accused the Indian Army and BSF of violating ceasefire agreement 1,050 times in 2018 alone, resulting into the death of 28 civilians and injuries to 117 others.
The decision to observe the ceasefire agreement and stop cross-border firing was widely welcomed within India and Pakistan and also by some other countries including the US and China.
Beijing had while commending the two countries for it expressed hope that the two neighbours will “properly resolve” their differences. “We commend the positive actions taken by both sides,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying had told media briefing in Beijing on May 31. She had in response to a question said, “We hope that both sides could properly resolve their disputes through dialogue and consultation and maintain regional peace and stability.”
A day later (June 1) the US also welcomed the decision and said that normalization of relations between the two South Asian neighbours is imperative for peace in the region. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert had said in a statement on Thursday “The US welcomes reports that the militaries of India and Pakistan have reaffirmed their commitment to fully implement the 2003 ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC).” She had added, “The normalisation of relations between Pakistan and India is vital to both countries and the region.”
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, has appealed India and Pakistan armies and border guards to hold dialogue again to stop firing at borders “as people on both sides are dying”.
Ms. Mufti who was among the first who has welcomed the two countries’ DGMOs decision said that the latest ceasefire violation is unfortunate. “It's unfortunate that this has happened even after DGMOs held dialogue. People on both sides of the border are dying. The DGMOs should hold dialogue again. This bloodshed must be brought to an end.”
Contradicting Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s stand, her deputy Kavinder Gupta said on Sunday that India should give Pakistan a “befitting reply” if provoked. “Pakistan is a cowardly nation which cannot be trusted,” he said, according to ANI. “We condemn repeated ceasefire violation by them. We had said that we will not shoot a bullet but will give befitting reply if bullets come from their side.”
Mufti has repeatedly appealed for dialogue to resolve the crisis in the state. On Sunday too, she told her party workers: “Till both the countries come closer, situation will not improve. Jammu and Kashmir bears the maximum impact of the relationship between India and Pakistan. So, our party’s agenda is that they should talk to each other.”
Ahir’s statement came after the latest alleged ceasefire violation on Sunday. Two Border Security Force personnel were killed after Pakistani rangers allegedly resorted to unprovoked and indiscriminate firing along the International Border in the Pragwal area of Akhnoor sector. The heavy firing and mortar shelling injured 13 people and forced civilians to abandon their homes and move to safer places.