Guns to fall silent on Indo-Pak borders
* India and Pakistan agree to observe ceasefire from Tuesday midnight
* Islamabad says truce duration indefinite
* Delhi hopes it will lead to talks
* US, UK and Japan welcome progress
* 3 injured in Indian shelling
NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD: The armies of India and Pakistan have agreed to observe a ceasefire in Kashmir from midnight, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
It said in a statement that the director-generals of military operations (DGMOs) from both countries had agreed on the ceasefire during their weekly telephone call.
It is the first full, formal cease-fire between the two since the freedom struggle began in Indian-held Kashmir in 1989.
The armies, which exchange fire every day, would observe the ceasefire both on the Line of Control and on the so-called Actual Ground Position Line in the Siachen Glacier to the north, it added.
Pakistani military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan told Reuters the ceasefire would start at 1830 GMT — midnight Indian time.
The foreign ministry said the director-generals “agreed to observe a ceasefire with effect from midnight tonight along the international border, the Line of Control and the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL).” In Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan confirmed that the two countries’ militaries had agreed on the ceasefire, which he said was indefinite. “Our intent is for an indefinite period,” Khan said. “This definitely is a positive development.”
Pakistan Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali offered a ceasefire in Kashmir on Sunday, and India said it would respond positively, and also extend it to the Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battlefield. India has accused Pakistan of using artillery fire as a cover to help militants sneak into Jammu-Kashmir to attack government forces and civilians.
Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal, meanwhile, Tuesday hailed the fresh peace moves by Pakistan, saying they could lead to dialogue between the archrivals.
“I think what the Pakistan side has done is very encouraging. All this is very good and will enhance people-to-people contacts between the two countries,” Sibal told reporters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit.
Sibal, however, reiterated New Delhi’s position that future progress towards peace was dependent on an end to the infiltration of insurgents from Azad Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian-administered Kashmir.
“If Pakistan does take sincere steps in stopping cross-border terrorism, then a dialogue is possible. They are the ones who have to perform. They have made commitments to the United States to end cross-border terrorism in Kashmir,” he said. He said the Indian side had offered to start immediate technical level talks for expanding transportation links between the two countries.
Mr Sibal added that technical level talks for resuming air links between the two countries would restart next month.
“Certainly to that extent, the infiltration will be a more risky proposition for those attempting it,” said G Parthasarthy, former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, commenting on the ceasefire.
“In terms of atmospherics, it is a good development. The litmus test of Pakistani sincerity would be an end to infiltration,” Parthasarthy told The Associated Press. Hours before the ceasefire was due to come into effect, Pakistani police said three children were wounded by Indian shellfire into Pakistan’s side of Kashmir. A Reuters reporter near the frontline in the south of Indian-held Kashmir also said both armies were still exchanging machine-gun fire there at 1350 GMT. The ceasefire, the first in at least 14 years, will cover the 230km non-disputed section of the international border in Kashmir, the disputed 760km Line of Control, and the northern Siachen Glacier.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell in a telephonic conversation with Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri on Tuesday welcomed the recent announcement by Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali to implement a unilateral ceasefire along the LoC and India’s positive response.
British foreign secretary Jack Straw also welcomed the move. “I particularly welcome Pakistan’s announcement of a unilateral ceasefire along the Line of Control and its willingness to open a Muzaffarabad/Srinagar bus link in Kashmir,” Straw said, in a statement released by the British Embassy in Islamabad. Japan’s foreign ministry in a statement issued by Japanese embassy in Islamabad also welcomed the ceasefire offer. Salim Hashmi, a spokesman for Hizbul Mujahideen, said the group would keep fighting Indian rule in Kashmir. —Agencies