SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (NC), the two main pro-India parties in Jammu and Kashmir, welcomed a joint statement by Indian and Pakistani army officials on Thursday that calls for both sides to observe all cease-fire agreements along the disputed border.

The statement said the directors general of military operations (DGMOs) of the two South Asian nuclear-armed neighbors held discussions via a hotline and agreed to address “each other’s core issues and concerns that have the propensity to disturb the peace and lead to violence so that sustainable peace is achieved along the borders.”

The NC said in a statement that it hopes the fresh agreement will be “followed in a letter and spirit.”

“This will allow people living along the borders to go about their normal lives with minimal disruption and risk,” it added.

PDP head Mehbooba Mufti tweeted that the DGMOs’ statement was a “big and welcome development.”

“Dialogue is the only way forward if both countries want to stop the unending cycle of violence and bloodshed across the borders and J&K,” she stated.

Both parties have been critical of India’s decision to scrap the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5, 2019, a development that further deteriorated relations between India and Pakistan and led to a major escalation in cross-border violence along the Line of Control (LoC), a de facto border that divides the disputed Himalayan region between the two countries.

Mehbooba and Farooq, who were former chief ministers of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, were detained for 14 and seven months, respectively, under a preventive detention law on Aug. 4, 2019.

Both countries accuse each other of violating the 2003 border cease-fire agreement. India’s Home Ministry said Pakistan violated it 5,133 times in 2020, while Pakistan accused Indian troops of violating the agreement more than 1,600 times in the same year. Dozens of soldiers and civilians were killed and scores injured on the two sides in these firing incidents that experts say were the highest since the signing of the border agreement in 2003.

Positive development

Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Mooed Yusuf told Anadolu Agency that “today’s statement is a positive development and needs to be welcomed.” Mooed said the agreement was a “victory of Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts as our country always called for an end to border violence and killing of innocent people.”

“This will pave the way for a resolution of the Kashmir issue in the manner it needs to be resolved,” he said.

Rejecting the Indian media claims, Moeed in a tweet said categorically that he did not hold any meeting with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval over the matter.

“The welcome development on the LoC is a result of discussions through the established channel of DGMOs. Obviously these are by their very nature not in the public eye and done privately and professionally through the direct channel,” he said referring to reports that the LoC truce happened after “due to back-channel diplomacy” between Moeed and Doval.

“This is baseless. No such talks have taken place between me and Mr. Doval,” he insisted.

The All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), a grouping of several pro-freedom parties led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, called the cease-fire agreement as “a move in the right direction.”

“It will provide huge relief to the beleaguered people living under constant threat along the border and end bloodshed there. Both countries need to address the core concern in Jammu and Kashmir keeping in view the aspirations of its people because Kashmir is the cause of conflict and violence in the (South Asian) region,” the statement said.

Disputed Region

Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965, and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

*Islamuddin Sajid in Islamabad contributed to this story