Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

Ceasefire between India and Pakistan.


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- What makes the recent ceasefire different from the past


Why it is different from the past

  • The February ceasefire has triggered widespread speculation about its durability, significance and implication for bilateral relations in general.
  • This agreement is different from the routine ceasefire assurances that the two sides made till January 2021.
  • What makes the February 2021 ceasefire different is its two distinct features:
  • First, this was a joint statement by the two DGsMO.
  • Second, unlike the previous declarations, the recent agreement mentions a specific date, i.e., the night of February 24-25, to begin the ceasefire.
  • The agreement is also path-breaking from a conflict management point of view.
  • The ceasefire is also significant because this helps India to defuse an ugly two-front situation and a feeling of being boxed in by an inimical Pakistan and an aggressive China.

Historical background of ceasefires with Pakistan

  • 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 that 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.
  • Following the India-Pakistan war of 1971, the Suchetgarh Agreement of 1972 delineated the ‘line of control’ in Jammu and Kashmir thereby renaming the CFL as the LoC.
  • The 2003 agreement between the DGsMO, communicated through a telephone call between them, was a reiteration of the December 1971 war termination ceasefire.

Rules and norms required

  • A ceasefire 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.
  • Therefore, armed forces deployed on either side of the LoC in Kashmir often have to resort to Karachi Agreement to observe the ceasefire.
  • Now that the two DGsMO have 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.

Role of back channels

  • What is also significant to note about the ceasefire agreement between the two DGsMO is that this was preceded by weeks.
  • Interestingly, the 2003 ceasefire was also preceded by discreet parleys between the heads of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of India.
  • The 2003 CFA led to a sustained period of back channel talks on Kashmir which, by mid 2007, had almost finalised a deal to resolve the Kashmir conflict.
  • Ane key reason why the CFA held at least till 2008 was because 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, the possibility of piecemeal agreements to create durable stability bilaterally unless followed by progress in other domains remains to be seen.

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