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Exchanging Sweets

Exchange of sweets between the armies of India and Pakistan on Eid is a healthy sign that ceasefire is holding, writes Zahoor Malik

India and Pakistan troops exchanging sweets on the day of Eid. This photograph shows the bilateral, engagement somewhere on Aman Setu in north Kashmir on May 13, 2021. The two sides have revived the ceasefire and stick to it.

When Covid19 pushed people Kashmir indoors on Eid, Indian and Pakistani soldiers exchanged sweets on the Line of Control (LoC) at Teetwal, Uri and Poonch.

The visuals released for the media showed army men from this side crossing a small bridge to meet the Pakistani troops for the exchange of sweets on Eid.

This was the first significant move on the de-facto borders after India and Pakistan in February 2021 agreed to strictly observe the ceasefire understanding of 2003 on LoC and the international border.

The exchange of sweets brought joy to the people, living in border areas. This was evident from their reaction to media during which they hoped that the border truce stays for long.

The development took place at a time when India is battling the merciless second wave of Covid19, which has killed tens of thousands of people. It coincided with world attention focussed on Israel-Palestine tension that killed almost 250 people in a war broadcast live by cell phone.

No Follow Up

On predicted lines, the moves between India and Pakistan could not go beyond the exchange of sweets. But what matters the most to the people in border areas at present is the continuation of the ongoing ceasefire. The gesture by the two sides on Eid indicated that the truce on the borders is going to stay.

Soldiers from India and Pakistan exchanging sweets on LoC in 2016. (Photo by 15 Corps)

In view of the tension between the two countries during the last several years, the two governments are trying to stick to their respective stated positions. However, their decision to resume a ceasefire in February is seen as a big breakthrough as the world had shown a lot of concern over the escalation of tension on borders and its subsequent effects.

Khan’s Statements

After the ceasefire, India has shown no interest in further talks with Pakistan and keeps on reiterating that it is for good relations with all neighbours but talks and terrorism cannot go together.  Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan recently said talks with India are possible only after India revokes its decision regarding the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Khan had to make the statement following criticism by certain quarters that his government was extending a hand of friendship to India in the backdrop of resumption of the ceasefire.

Earlier, for more than two years, Khan had talked tough against India over the revocation of article 370. His campaign at the international level was disliked by New Delhi, who ran a counter-campaign.

Behind the scene talks at the beginning of this year helped the two countries to go back to a truce on borders. This at that time had also generated hope for further strengthening of relations between the two countries.

Imran Khan and Narendra Modi

Observers say India is not going to listen to what Khan demands. They refer to successive Indian governments’ refusal in past to accept Kashmiri leaderships’ demand to restore greater autonomy to the Jammu and Kashmir. So there is no going back to the pre-August 5, 2019 position. Observers say that more than Pakistan reaction, Delhi was concerned about the fallout in Kashmir after the abrogation of article 370.  That is why curfew was clamped and communication snapped for months together. With tight security measures and arrests, an impression is there that the centre has contained Kashmir.

A way out could be a softening stand by Pakistani. But this is not possible given the situation Imran Khan is in.

Renovation of a cafeteria by the army near  Kaman Bridge in Uri sector a few days back did generate a wish among the divided families and people associated with the trade that Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service and cross LoC business must also resume the way ceasefire dramatically returned to borders.

Kaman post is the last Indian post on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road.

A file photo of ‘Kaman-Aman’ Setu bridge.

The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service which had facilitated the reunion of divided families on both sides of the border remains suspended for several years now.  Growing tension between India and Pakistan led to the suspension of the bus service. Officially it was being stated that the suspension of the service was because of some repair work on Kaman Bridge.

The cross LoC trade also came to a grinding halt following an allegation from the Indian side that the trade is being misused to fuel militancy in Kashmir. A number of cross LoC traders from this side were either questioned or taken into custody by investigating agencies during the probe.

Whether or not any further headway is made in Indo-Pak relations in near future,  the people in border areas are presently happy with peace on borders.

The people living along both sides of the LoC and the international border have suffered immensely because of the growing hostilities between the two countries during the last several years. A number of people were killed, more injured and their houses damaged and cattle perished when guns roared and shells rained. Even their normal activities in agriculture and other sectors were hampered.

Now after the return of the ceasefire understanding peace is back on borders. This also led to the return of normal life for the people there.

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