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India-Pakistan (Ceasefire Agreements, past to present)

  • 03 March, 2021

  • 10 Min Read

India-Pakistan (Ceasefire Agreements, past to present)


  • In the wake of registering 5,130 ceasefire violations in 2020, guns on either side of the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) fell silent on the intervening night of February 24-25, 2021.
  • The February ceasefire announcement by the 2 Director Generals of Military Operations (DGsMO)  has triggered widespread speculation about its durability, significance and implication for bilateral relations in general.

Significance of the ceasefire

  • What makes the February 2021 ceasefire different is its two distinct features:
    • This was a joint statement by the two DGsMO, and
    • Unlike the previous declarations, the recent agreement mentions a specific date, i.e., the night of February 24-25, to begin the ceasefire.
  • The February ceasefire is arguably one of the most significant military measures by India and Pakistan in over 18 years to reduce violence along the LoC in Kashmir.
  • Coming in the wake of over 5,000 ceasefire violations in 2020 (the highest in 19 years since 2002) the agreement is path-breaking from a conflict management point of view.
  • It is easy to talk about a two or ‘two-and-a-half’ front (Pakistan-China-Terrorist) situation for domestic grandstanding, but dealing with it is neither easy nor practical.
  • That the Indian Army had to redeploy forces from the western border with Pakistan to the northern border with China is indicative of the serious material challenges it could throw up.
  • The best way to deal with the two-front challenge (Pakistan and China) then, New Delhi could have reasoned, was to defuse at least one front.
  • Given that the back-channel process started much before the recent India-China disengagement on the LAC, New Delhi must have decided to defuse the western challenge from Pakistan first. And it worked.

A brief history (Ceasefire agreements from past to present)

The history of India-Pakistan ceasefire pacts and war termination agreements is both complex and instructive.

  • Ceasefire Line or CFL: The Karachi agreement of 1949, which ended the first war between newly formed India and Pakistan, was the first ceasefire agreement between the two countries which, signed under the good offices of the United Nations, created the India-Pakistan boundary in Kashmir called the Ceasefire Line or CFL.
    • The United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) was mandated to monitor the ceasefire along the CFL.
  • 1965 war: The 1965 India-Pakistan war also ended in a ceasefire, but since the status quo ante Bellum was restored after the Tashkent Agreement, the CFL in Kashmir remained unaltered.
  • Simla Agreement: However, the India-Pakistan war of 1971 would change that. The December ceasefire which ended the 1971 war was enshrined into the Simla Agreement the following year.
    • But unlike 1965, the status quo ante Bellum was not restored by the Simla Agreement, a decision that would have important implications for bilateral relations.
  • Suchetgarh Agreement: The Suchetgarh Agreement of 1972 delineated the ‘line of control in Jammu and Kashmir which resulted from the ceasefire of December 1971 thereby renaming the CFL as the LoC.
    • By this smart move, Indian negotiators not only changed the nomenclature of the India-Pakistan dividing line in Kashmir and the physical alignment of the border in Jammu and Kashmir but also made the UNMOGIP presence in Kashmir irrelevant.
    • Recall that the UN force was mandated to ensure a ceasefire on the CFL, but there was no CFL after 1972, and, more so, the UN was not even a party to the Simla Agreement, unlike the Karachi Agreement.
  • 2003 Agreement: The 2003 agreement between the DGsMO, communicated through a telephone call between them, was a reiteration of the December 1971 war termination ceasefire; Technically, therefore, even the February 2021 ceasefire to is a reiteration of the 1971 ceasefire agreement.

A form of intent

  • Mutually agreed rules and norms: And yet, a ceasefire does not observe itself — it requires a clearly articulated and mutually-agreed upon set of rules and norms for effective observance along with an intent to observe them. The February ceasefire is an expression of such an intent, but without the rules and norms to enforce it.
    • The Simla Agreement or the Suchetgarh Agreement do not have those rules either.
    • The Karachi Agreement, on the other hand, has clearly laid down provisions on how to manage the CFL which, of course, was overtaken by the LoC.

Need for change

  • Ironically, therefore, armed forces deployed on either side of the LoC in Kashmir often have to resort to the strictures enshrined in the long-defunct Karachi Agreement to observe the ceasefire mandated by the Simla Agreement.
  • This needs to change.
  • Now that the two DGsMO has declared a joint ceasefire, the next logical step is to arrive at a set of rules to govern that ceasefire.
  • An unwritten ceasefire, experiences from conflict zones around the world show, tend to break down easily and trigger tensions in other domains.

Back door channel

  • What is also evident from that period is that one key reason why the 2003 CFA held at least till 2008 was that there were parallel talks, along with holding fire on the LoC, on other outstanding bilateral issues, principally Kashmir.
  • While whether the 2021 CFA would prompt talks in other areas is unclear as of now, I doubt the ability of piecemeal agreements to create durable stability bilaterally unless followed by progress in other domains.



Source: TH


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