File image: Indian Army soldiers patrol at the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan in Poonch, about 250 kilometres from Jammu. (Image: AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Two top Army commanders on Saturday said the fresh ceasefire between India and Pakistan will have no bearing on the counter-terrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir and that the force will exercise "maximum restraint" in the event of any violation by the neighbouring country.
The comments by the Army's northern commander Lt. Gen. Y K Joshi and General Officer Commanding (GoC), 28 Infantry Division, Maj. Gen. V M B Krishnan at separate events came two days after India and Pakistan issued a joint statement to strictly observe all agreements on ceasefire along the Line of Control(LoC) and other sectors. The decision by the two countries came into effect from the midnight of February 24/25. "Recently, the Director General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan have announced an agreement to uphold ceasefire along the LoC. I want to assure that this ceasefire will have no bearing on the counter-terrorism operations and we will maintain our alertness," Lt. Gen. Joshi said at the northern command investiture ceremony in Udhampur.
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Without naming China and Pakistan, he also said the Indian Army has maintained its domination on its borders with the neighbouring countries and helped in maintaining peace in the hinterland. "The northern command has always stood like a shield against the attempts by our neighbouring countries to spread disturbance and it will continue to remain so in the future. Whenever anyone raises an evil eye on our country, Indian Army has replied strongly," Lt. Gen. Joshi said. The military standoff between India and China in eastern Ladakh erupted on May 5.
Maj. Gen. Krishnan said the army will exercise maximum restraint in case of any violation of the ceasefire understanding by Pakistan. Welcoming the Thursday agreement, he said the decision was significant as it would bring relief to the people living near the LoC.
"We will not retaliate as long as it is possible and we hope that the Pakistani side will also uphold the agreement," he told reporters in Kupwara, about 100 km north of Srinagar, when asked about the directions for the Army in case Pakistan violated the ceasefire agreement. The 28 Infantry Division covers the Tangdhar, Keran, Machil (in Kupwara district) and Gurez (in Bandipora) sectors along the LoC.
"We welcome the ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan. We hope it ushers in an era of peace, security and development to the villages close to the LoC," Maj. Gen. Krishnan said. He also expressed hope that the infiltration from across the LoC is "shut down" by Pakistan.
The GoC said the reiteration of the ceasefire agreement is a significant decision as it will bring a lot of relief to the people of about 300 villages located very close to the LoC. "It will now enable these people to go about their daily lives…. It is important for us to have peace and security in our region so that development can take place," he said.
Saying peace and tranquillity along the LoC will help build mutual trust and confidence between the two neighbouring countries, Maj. Gen. Krishnan asserted that the ceasefire agreement is the first step towards that. "(But) we have a fair amount of distance to cover. I hope terrorism gets absolutely diminished and eliminated in the next couple of years. So we have to take all these steps for many things to happen in Jammu and Kashmir."
Maj. Gen. Krishnan said the LoC has been tranquil for the last two days as there has been no violation and "it is very quiet". However, he said the Army continues to receive inputs about the presence of militants at some terror launchpads across the LoC.
"We are on high alert and fully prepared to foil any infiltration attempt," he added. Asked about the possible impact of the agreement on infiltration attempts from across the border, the GoC said when there are no ceasefire violations, "it does enable us to handle the situation very well".
However, infiltration attempts are very much possible, especially given the rugged terrain of the area, he added. At the investiture ceremony, Lt. Gen. Joshi also referred to the military standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.
He said the Indian Army stood up to the challenge on the snow-capped mountains of the Line of Actual Control(LAC) during the challenging situation in 2020 and maintained the highest alert. "Our action is a glaring example of our training, bravery and pledge (to safeguard the borders) and it will be written in history with golden words. The northern command made possible what seemed impossible. The success of the operation (in Ladakh) is the glaring example of the bravery of Indian Army."
Lt. Gen. Joshi said 2020 was historic in many ways for the Indian Army which demonstrated its mettle in eastern Ladakh by its "grit, determination, self-confidence, bravery and steadfastness". He said there has been a tremendous improvement in the basic deployment and preparedness and the efforts in this direction will continue. The measures we have put in to strengthen our defences, the same efforts were made to maintain peace, he added.
In Kashmir, he said, the overall security situation saw a great improvement in the previous year as there has been a considerable reduction in terrorist-initiated incidents, stone-pelting activities and protests as a result of tireless efforts of the security forces and the people of Jammu and Kashmir.