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Watchdog to tail finger on trigger
- Ceasefire monitor ‘in good faith’

New Delhi, Nov. 29: A structure to monitor the ceasefire along the Line of Control with Pakistan is being shaped “in good faith” in the absence of an independent authority to keep a check on activities across the boundary.

This is, in a sense, the second time in three years that a ceasefire effort is on along the LoC. In November 2000, the Indian Army had stopped firing under a plan called NICO (non-initiation of combat operations).

A highly placed source in the defence establishment said Delhi has approached the ceasefire with a “patient outlook”. The directors-general of military operations of India and Pakistan are understood to have been told that “one or two” minor incidents of firing should not be treated as a violation of the ceasefire. The DGMOs would be asked for an assessment after two weeks.

As of now, in the three days since the guns fell silent on the LoC, barring a solitary incident of small-arms firing from the Mumtaz border outpost (Pakistan’s) on the Jammu border, there is no report of a transgression.

On the Indian side, the Border Security Force’s 14 battalions on the Line of Control have been placed under the operational command of the army. This is a technicality since the BSF battalions on the LoC have almost always acted in consort with the army. The army has an estimated 90 infantry battalions along the 740-km LoC.

BSF director-general Ajai Raj Sharma said here today that flag meetings between commanders on the field can be held with the DGMO’s permission if questions arose from an incident of firing. The Indian position is that its forces will fire on infiltrators and such action should not be seen as a violation of the ceasefire.

“Personally, I am a bit more optimistic about it (the ceasefire) this time,” Sharma said. “If peace talks have to take place in January, the ceasefire will have to continue even though the past is not really very encouraging.”

The BSF will continue to remain a nodal agency in counter-insurgency operations in the Kashmir Valley. He estimated that there were between 2,500 and 3,000 armed militants inside Jammu and Kashmir.

Sharma also said that within hours of the ceasefire coming into effect, the BSF moved men and materiel to work on a fence along the International Boundary in Jammu. Part of the boundary here is disputed by Pakistan, which refers to it as a “working boundary”.

The fencing work was earlier entrusted to the Central Public Works Department, which cried off because of the firing. During the ceasefire, Sharma said, it would be possible for the BSF to work on the fence at thrice the speed.

Of the 180 km earmarked for fencing, only 87 km have been done so far. Part of the stretch has also been floodlit like the borders in Punjab and Rajasthan.

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