India, Pakistan agree to reduce border tension, open more channels of communication
In a significant development, India and Pakistan on Thursday agreed to open more channels of communication for resolving all issues of utmost importance between the two sides, increase bilateral engagements and maintain peace along the international border.
New Delhi: India and Pakistan on Thursday decided to devise new strategies along the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir to put an end to incidents of ceasefire violations as they began their three-day DG-level border dialogue here.
In what can be seen as an encouraging development in bilateral talks between the two neighbours, the BSF-Pakistan Rangers meeting was also extended for a day to “discuss and finalise” these new protocols and strategies.
“The most significant takeaway of the talks has been that the two sides agreed that maintenance of peace and tranquillity on this border is the most important issue and this needs to be implemented on the ground,” a top government source said.
According to the set agenda, the talks were to be wrapped up today as tomorrow the Rangers are scheduled to meet Home Minister Rajnath Singh at his South Block office and later meet staff and officials in the Pakistan High Commission.
On their last day in Delhi on September 12, a joint record of discussions was to be signed between the two sides after which the visitors were to leave for Islamabad.
“Yes, the talks have been extended for a day and a special session will be held tomorrow to decide on protocols that will be put in place to put an end to ceasefire violations and make the Indo-Pak border tranquil,” the source said.
Responding to India's appeal for peace, the Pakistan Army pledged that its troops will observe ceasefire strictly and exercise restraint in the days to come.
Border Security Force (BSF) chief D K Pathak, during a public function of central investigative agency NIA in the evening here, told PTI that the Indian side was “happy” after the deliberations on the first day.
“I wouldn’t say anything beyond that. The talks went on in a very cordial manner and we are happy about it,” Pathak said.
Sources said the Indian side suggested that rather than debating and contesting about the past incidents, the two sides should work on a “future” strategy to make this border peaceful and safe for the troops and civilians alike.
Pakistan agreed to this point and after some more positive talks it was mutually decided that the session should be extended by a day, they said.
The Rangers, led by their DG (Punjab) Umar Farooq Burki, asked BSF to initiate the joint patrolling along some mutually identified areas on this border which was agreed by India, they said.
However, the main agenda of the talks is ceasefire violations. Just yesterday, at least two BSF personnel were wounded in firing in Nowgam sector of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Pakistani Army also fired at Indian positions yesterday along the LoC in Poonch district.
The talks, one of the measures agreed upon during a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, gain special significance after the National Security Adviser-level talks could not take place due to Pakistan's insistence on discussing Kashmir.
With some 100 ceasefire violations along the India-Pakistan border since the Ufa talks, the issue dominated the agenda from the Indian side, sources said.
Till June this year, there have been 199 ceasefire violations by Pakistan.
Official figures reveal that around 430 ceasefire violations occurred on the International Border while 153 violations were reported on the LoC in 2014. In 2013, it was 347.
As per sources, issues Pakistan has placed on agenda also includes the alleged use of objectionable language by troops on the Indian side, and lack of response on simultaneous coordinated patrolling along the border.
The sources further said the Rangers “did not bring on table” the issue of activation of the UNMOGIP (UN Military Observer Group in Indian and Pakistan).
Pakistan is also expected to raise the issue of airspace violation by suspected unmanned aerial vehicles.
Pakistan had blamed India of violating its airspace when it shot down a drone in July. India, however, said the drone was not like any of those in the Indian inventory and appeared to be of a Chinese variety available off-the-shelf.
(With PTI inputs)