India and Pakistan agree to ceasefire on Kashmir border

Move aims to halt months of cross-border shooting that affects civilians in the area

A paramilitary trooper stands guard near the site of a shootout in Srinagar on February 19, 2021 after unidentified gunmen killed two police personnel.  / AFP / Tauseef Mustafa
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India and Pakistan's militaries said on Thursday that they had agreed to stop firing along their disputed border in Kashmir, where frequent gunfire in recent months killed or injured people living in the area.

"In the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders, the two DGsMOs agreed to address each other's core issues and concerns, which have propensity to disturb peace and lead to violence," a joint statement said, referring to the two countries' military operations heads.

The nuclear-armed neighbours signed a ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control (LoC) – the de facto border in the Kashmir region – in 2003, but the truce frayed in recent years.

An official in New Delhi said the cessation was partly aimed at easing the fraught situation for civilians living along the border, who are regularly caught in the crossfire.

"We are cautiously optimistic that the violence levels and tensions along the LoC will come down," the official said.

But India will not ease up on deployments along the LoC that aim to stop infiltration or counterinsurgency operations in the Kashmir valley, the official said.

Last summer, Indian and Pakistani troops were locked in their most frequent cross-border fighting in at least two years, amid surging coronavirus outbreaks.

Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between the neighbours, but tension was renewed after New Delhi withdrew the autonomy of the Himalayan region last August and split it into federally administered territories.

Both countries claim the region in full, but rule only parts.