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Indo-Pak ceasefire will have no bearing on anti-militancy operations in J&K: Army

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Says ‘will exercise maximum restraint in case of ceasefire violations by Pak’

Udhampur /Kupwara:  Two top Army commanders on Saturday said the fresh ceasefire between India and Pakistan will have no bearing on the counter-militancy operations in Jammu and Kashmir and that the force will exercise “maximum restraint” in the event of any violation by the neighbouring country.

The comments by the Army’s northern commander Lt. Gen. Y K Joshi and General Officer Commanding (GoC), 28 Infantry Division, Maj. Gen. V M B Krishnan at separate events came two days after India and Pakistan issued a joint statement to strictly observe all agreements on ceasefire along the Line of Control(LoC) and other sectors. The decision by the two countries came into effect from the midnight of February 24/25.

“Recently, the Director General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan have announced an agreement to uphold ceasefire along the LoC. I want to assure that this ceasefire will have no bearing on the counter-terrorism operations and we will maintain our alertness,” Lt. Gen. Joshi said at the northern command investiture ceremony in Udhampur.

Without naming China and Pakistan, he also said the Indian Army has maintained its domination on its borders with the neighbouring countries and helped in maintaining peace in the hinterland.

“The northern command has always stood like a shield against the attempts by our neighbouring countries to spread disturbance and it will continue to remain so in the future. Whenever anyone raises an evil eye on our country, Indian Army has replied strongly,” Lt. Gen. Joshi said. The military standoff between India and China in eastern Ladakh erupted on May 05 last year.

Maj. Gen. Krishnan said the army will exercise maximum restraint in case of any violation of the ceasefire understanding by Pakistan.

Welcoming the Thursday agreement, he said the decision was significant as it would bring relief to the people living near the LoC.

“We will not retaliate as long as it is possible and we hope that the Pakistani side will also uphold the agreement,” he  told reporters in Kupwara, about 100 km north of Srinagar, when asked about the directions for the Army in case Pakistan violated the ceasefire agreement.

The 28 Infantry Division covers the Tangdhar, Keran, Machil (in Kupwara district) and Gurez (in Bandipora) sectors along the LoC.

“We welcome the ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan. We hope it ushers in an era of peace, security and development to the villages close to the LoC,” Maj. Gen. Krishnan said.

He also expressed hope that the infiltration from across the LoC is “shut down” by Pakistan.

The GoC said the reiteration of the ceasefire agreement is a significant decision as it will bring a lot of relief to the people of about 300 villages located very close to the LoC.

“It will now enable these people to go about their daily lives…. It is important for us to have peace and security in our region so that development can take place,” he said.

Saying peace and tranquility along the LoC will help build mutual trust and confidence between the two neighbouring countries, Maj. Gen. Krishnan asserted that the ceasefire agreement is the first step towards that.

“(But) we have a fair amount of distance to cover. I hope terrorism gets absolutely diminished and eliminated in the next couple of years. So we have to take all these steps for many things to happen in Jammu and Kashmir.”

Maj. Gen. Krishnan said the LoC has been tranquil for the last two days as there has been no violation and “it is very quiet”.

However, he said the Army continues to receive inputs about the presence of militants at some “launchpads across the LoC”.

“We are on high alert and fully prepared to foil any infiltration attempt,” he added.

Asked about the possible impact of the agreement on infiltration attempts from across the border, the GoC said when there are no ceasefire violations, “it does enable us to handle the situation very well”.

However, infiltration attempts are very much possible, especially given the rugged terrain of the area, he added.

At the investiture ceremony, Lt. Gen. Joshi also referred to the military standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.

He said the Indian Army stood up to the challenge on the snow-capped mountains of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) during the challenging situation in 2020 and maintained the highest alert.

“Our action is a glaring example of our training, bravery and pledge (to safeguard the borders) and it will be written in history with golden words. The northern command made possible what seemed impossible. The success of the operation (in Ladakh) is the glaring example of the bravery of Indian Army.”

Lt. Gen. Joshi said 2020 was historic in many ways for the Indian Army which demonstrated its mettle in eastern Ladakh by its “grit, determination, self-confidence, bravery and steadfastness”.

He said there has been a tremendous improvement in the basic deployment and preparedness and the efforts in this direction will continue. “The measures we have put in to strengthen our defences, the same efforts were made to maintain peace,” he added.

In Kashmir, he said, “the overall security situation saw a great improvement in the previous year as there has been a considerable reduction in terrorist-initiated incidents, stone-pelting activities and protests as a result of tireless efforts of the security forces and the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Onus of creating ‘enabling environment’ for further progress rests with India: Pak PM

Islamabad:  Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday welcomed the ceasefire agreement with India but said the onus of creating an “enabling environment” for further progress in bilateral relations rests with New Delhi.

In his first comments since the militaries of India and Pakistan jointly announced on Thursday that they have agreed to strictly observe all agreements on the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) and other sectors, Khan said Pakistan remains ready to move forward to resolve “all outstanding issues” with India through dialogue.

“I welcome restoration of the ceasefire along the LOC. The onus of creating an enabling environment for further progress rests with India. India must take necessary steps to meet the long-standing demand & right of the Kashmiri people to self determination according to UNSC resolutions,” Khan tweeted.

“We have always stood for peace & remain ready to move forward to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue,” Khan said in a series of tweets.

India has told Pakistan that “talks and terror” cannot go together and has asked Islamabad to take demonstrable steps against militant groups responsible for launching various attacks on India.

On Thursday, India said it desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan and is committed to resolving all issues bilaterally in a peaceful manner.

“On relations with Pakistan, as we have said earlier, India desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan. We have always maintained that we are committed to addressing issues, if any, in a peaceful and bilateral manner,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said in New Delhi.

India and Pakistan issued a joint statement on Thursday to strictly observe all agreements on ceasefire along the LoC and other sectors after the hotline discussions by their Director Generals of Military Operations. The decision by the two countries came into effect from the midnight of February 24/25.

India and Pakistan signed a ceasefire agreement in 2003, but it has hardly been followed in letter and spirit over the past several years.

Prime minster Khan’s tweets on Saturday came on the second anniversary of Pakistan’s retaliatory airstrikes after the Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets crossed the LoC and targeted what India said were “Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) training camp” at Balakot on February 26, 2019.

The IAF warplanes hit the JeM camp to avenge the killing of 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in the Pulwama suicide attack. Pakistan Air Force (PAF) retaliated the next day.

Khan said Pakistan demonstrated to the world its “responsible behaviour” by returning the captured Indian pilot.

On the Kashmir issue, Khan said, India must take necessary steps to meet the long-standing demand and right of the Kashmiri people to self-determination according to UN Security Council resolutions.

New Delhi has told Islamabad that it has no locus standi to comment on the internal affairs of India, asserting that the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have been and will remain an integral part of the country.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said on Saturday that it was committed to peaceful coexistence and resolution of the Kashmir issue as per the UN resolutions.

“As this day is commemorated, we once again make clear to the world community that Pakistan remains committed to peaceful coexistence and resolution of the long outstanding Jammu & Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people,” it said in a statement.

Separately, the PAF organised a special event to mark the second anniversary of its retaliatory strikes.

Addressing the event, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan said Pakistan’s desire for peace should not be misunderstood as a weakness, and Islamabad is capable of defending itself.

In a statement to mark the event, the Pakistan Army said “Pakistan stands for peace but when challenged, shall respond with full might.”

In an editorial, the ‘Dawn’ newspaper pointed out that no one should be under the illusion that the bitterness afflicting bilateral ties will magically disappear on the basis of one statement.

“Peace-building is a long and arduous process, and when the relationship is as complex as that of Pakistan and India, things will take time to fall into place,” it said.

The ‘Express Tribune’ in an editorial termed the ceasefire agreement as a positive development. “The deal was long-awaited,” it said, adding that the agreement is a win for both countries and shows the importance of keeping lines of communication open even when relations are tense.

Ties between India and Pakistan soured after an attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016 by militant groups based in the neighbouring country. Subsequent attacks, including one on the Indian Army camp in Uri, further deteriorated the relationship.

The relationship dipped further after India’s warplanes pounded the “JeM camp” inside Pakistan in response to the Pulwama suicide attack.

The relations nose-dived following the abrogation of Article 370 of India’s Constitution in August, 2019 that revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. The move angered Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties with India and expelled the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad. Pakistan also snapped all air and land links with India and suspended trade and railway services.

In June last year, India asked Pakistan to reduce the staff in its mission in New Delhi by half and announced a reciprocal trimming of staff strength in its high commission in Islamabad. India said its decision to downgrade the diplomatic ties was based on instances of involvement of Pakistani officials in “acts of espionage” and “dealings with terrorist organisations”.

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