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PHOTO: India, Pak top commanders meet for first time since Kargil war

Last updated on: December 24, 2013 20:01 IST

India and Pakistan on Tuesday decided to "re-energise" existing mechanisms to maintain the truce on the Line of Control, months after bilateral ties nosedived over the killing of five Indian soldiers and flare-ups between the two sides on the ceasefire line.

The agreement came at a meeting of the directors general of military operations of the two sides, who held face-to-face talks for the first time in 14 years at the Wagah border.

A joint statement said the DGMOs "agreed to re-energise the existing mechanisms" to maintain the ceasefire on the LoC.

"We had a cordial, constructive and fruitful meeting. We discussed the ceasefire along the Line of Control and the existing mechanisms," DGMO Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia said after two-hour-long talks with his Pakistani counterpart Maj Gen Aamer Riaz. "We both decided to ensure ceasefire and strengthen the existing mechanisms."

Two flag meetings between brigade commanders will be held on the LoC in the near future to ensure peace and tranquility, the statement said. The DGMOs decided to make their hotline contact "more effective and result-oriented", it said. They further decided to inform each other of inadvertent crossing of the LoC by any civilian to ensure his early return.

Tuesday's meeting was an outcome of talks between prime ministers Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif in New York in September at the height of tensions triggered by the LoC flare-ups. The premiers had decided the DGMOs should hold talks to reduce tensions but the meeting could not be scheduled till now, over which Singh had even expressed disappointment with Sharif.

Besides the DGMOs, a brigadier and three lieutenant colonels from both sides took part in the talks.

A Pakistani military statement issued earlier said the decision to hold the meeting of the DGMOs was made at the political level. Besides tensions on the LoC, the DGMOs discussed matters related to the international boundary with a focus on maintaining the 2003 ceasefire and ensuring normalcy.

Five Indian soldiers were killed in an attack by Pakistani troops along the LoC in August while two more were killed in January. Both sides also repeatedly accused each other of violating the ceasefire on the LoC.

The DGMOs last met 14 years ago after the Kargil conflict of 1999. They usually talk once a week on their hotline.

India is believed to have forcefully conveyed to Pakistan the importance of maintaining the ceasefire. Pakistani media reports said Islamabad was expected to seek a larger role for the United Nations military observers deployed along the LoC.

The UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan was established in 1949 under a resolution passed by the Security Council to monitor the ceasefire line.

Pakistan had proposed the inclusion of the foreign ministry officials in the meeting of the DGMOs but India rejected the move. Pakistan's Foreign Office said last week that its proposal for including diplomats in such meetings was "still on the table".

Speaking to media at Attari on his return from Pakistan, Lt Gen Bhatia said the aim of the meeting was to work out a protocol to defuse tensions and uphold the ceasefire on the LoC. Both sides had assured each other that they would ensure there is no violation of the ceasefire in future, he said.

Bhatia did not respond to questions on whether the Indian side had raised the issue of the beheading of an Indian soldier on the LoC.

In Rawalpindi, chief Pakistani military spokesman Maj Gen Asim Bajwa described the meeting of the DGMOs as "positive". Both sides discussed ways to reinforce the 2003 ceasefire to reduce tensions on the LoC, he said.

Image: Lt Gen Vinodh Bhatia, DGMO of the Indian Army, shakes hands with Maj Gen Aamer Riaz, DGMO of the Pakistan army, at the Wagha Border on Tuesday

Photograph: Inter Services Public Relations

 

Snehesh Alex Philip in Islamabad
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