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Bonding over ‘Lahori lunch’

- DGMOs meet for first time after kargil war
Indian DGMO Lt General Vinod Bhatia shakes hands with his Pakistan counterpart Major General Aamer Riaz at the Wagah border on Tuesday. (PTI)

New Delhi, Dec. 24: A Christmas-eve “Lahori lunch” has rounded off one of the most brutal years on the Line of Control after the military operations’ directors of India and Pakistan met at the border today and decided on more meetings in Kashmir’s disputed frontier.

The directors general of military operations of India and Pakistan, Lt General Vinod Bhatia and Major General Aamer Riaz, led their delegations to a meeting hosted by Pakistan across the Punjab gateway at Wagah this morning. The meeting — the first between the two DGMOs in 14 years — follows a decision taken by Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif in New York in September.

The Indian Army counts more than 195 ceasefire violations by Pakistani forces this year, making it one of the most violent since the two countries agreed in 2003 to a ceasefire. But the Line of Control has been quieter in the last three months.

Bahut khatirdari ki (they were very gracious hosts),” the Indian DGMO said of the three-hour meeting after crossing back into the country. A delegation member said the spread the Pakistani Army arranged over lunch included all kinds of meat dishes and fish. There was nihari (a spicy, oily gravy with succulent pieces of meat) and there was khameeri naan (a bread). The dessert was halwa made of the best carrots available this season.

The DGMOs speak once a week at least over a telephone hotline. But not since the end of the Kargil war in 1999 have they met across the table. The meeting this time was necessitated by the quantum jump in violence. The year began with the Indian Army alleging that Pakistani forces had beheaded and mutilated two of its soldiers in the first week of January. Ceasefire violations peaked after that.

The DGMOs meeting now, with less than a week to go before the year ends, holds out some promises to the governments that the armies will keep the peace in Kashmir.

“We had a cordial, constructive and fruitful meeting. We discussed the ceasefire along the LoC and existing mechanisms. We are positive. We look forward to sustaining the ceasefire,” Lt Gen. Bhatia said.

A joint statement by the two armies said the DGMOs decided that there would be two flag meetings between sector (brigade) commanders along the LoC. It is likely that these will be in the Krishnaghati and Bhimbar Gali sectors that saw the most violence.

The Indian defence establishment has also noted that the Pakistani Army has made a departure from practice. It accepted the political leadership’s decision that the DGMOs should meet. Not only that, it took the initiative to invite the Indian DGMO instead of waiting to be invited.

Major General Aamer Riaz — who would be junior to Lt General Bhatia in rank — was accompanied to the talks by two brigadiers and two colonels. Lt General Bhatia’s delegation comprised two brigadiers and three lieutenant colonels.