In efforts to defuse escalating tensions triggered by the recent ceasefire violations at the Line of Control (LoC), military officials from Pakistan and India are due to hold talks today (Monday).
The country’s chief military spokesperson told The Express Tribune that brigade commanders from Pakistan and India would hold a ‘flag meeting’ at the de facto border, which divides Kashmir, to discuss the recent border clashes that killed four soldiers from both sides.
“Pakistan will urge the Indian side to abide by the ceasefire agreement,” said Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa.
According to a security official, talks between the military officials indicate a step in the right direction to ease tensions after weeks of ‘war of words’ between the two South Asian archrivals on ceasefire violations.
In a tit for tat move, Islamabad and New Delhi summoned each other’s diplomats to record their protest over the LoC skirmishes.
Pakistan even proposed a United Nations (UN) investigation but India refused to accept the suggestion.
Indian military officials also confirmed the meeting between brigade commanders on Monday.
“Yes, the two sides will be meeting on Monday. This is a local commander meet,” Colonel Rajesh Kalia, a spokesperson for Indian Army’s Northern Command, told Reuters by phone.
Another Indian army spokesperson, Colonel Jagdeep Dahiya, said in New Delhi that the meeting would take place in Mendhar, the scene of one of the deadly attacks, at around 1 pm.
Firing and small skirmishes are common along the 740km LoC despite a ceasefire that was agreed in 2003. The Indian army says eight of its soldiers were killed in 2012, in 75 incidents of ceasefire violations.
Last Sunday, a Pakistani soldier was killed in what Islamabad said was a cross-border raid mounted by the Indians. The Indian army denied any of its troops breached the control line, but said there had been an exchange of fire.
Two days later, further south along the LoC in the Mendhar district, two Indian soldiers were killed in a thick forest after what Indian officials said was a deep incursion into their territory by Pakistani forces.
On Thursday, hostilities erupted again in another part of the ceasefire line, and this time Pakistan said one of its soldiers was killed.
Concerns in AJK
Meanwhile, activists representing diverse segments of civil society in Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) have expressed grave concern over the escalating tensions along the LoC.
“We are deeply concerned over the current escalation along the LoC that negatively affects the lives of locals and the future direction of a Kashmir-specific peace process,” civil society elders said in a joint statement released to the media on Sunday.
The joint statement read, “We [are] raising our voice from amongst the civil society of AJK, call for de-escalation on the LoC and restoration of confidence in the peace process”.
(With additional input from Reuters and our correspondent in Mirpur, AJK)
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2013.