‘It’s Eid:’ Kashmir border villagers celebrate India-Pakistan truce pledge
By Shah Abbas
Srinagar, India, Feb 26 (efe-epa).- Shaista, a 13-year-old border resident, has bittersweet feelings about India and Pakistan renewing their pledge to a ceasefire along their disputed boundary in Kashmir.
Had the two nuclear rivals reaffirmed their commitment to stop guns roaring three months ago, her mother, Farooqa Banu, would have been alive to celebrate the new border truce, Shaista said.
Banu, a mother of five, was killed after a mortar shell landed on their house during a cross-border firing exchange in north Kashmir’s Uri sector in November 2020.
“I am happy as well as sad at the same time,” Shaista told EFE over the phone.
“Hopefully children like us will not lose parents anymore. Had this agreement taken place three months ago, ours would have been a different world,” she said.
The two countries said on Thursday they have agreed to sustain the 2003 ceasefire and stop cross-border firing in the disputed Kashmir region.
Intermittent border clashes between the warring neighbors kill dozens of people each year and force thousands of civilians in frontier villages out of their homes due to mortar shelling from both sides.
The reaffirmation to de-escalate border violence in the disputed Himalayan region comes after India-Pakistan tensions marked a new high following a suicide bombing that killed more than 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers in Kashmir in February 2019.
India blamed Pakistan for plotting the attack and launched airstrikes on an alleged terror hideout across the border.
Pakistan also flew in fighter jets in retaliation and shot down an Indian bomber and briefly detained its pilot before releasing him in a bid to ease tensions.
The latest commitment to maintain calm has been generally welcomed by the residents living in the border villages.
“It is our Eid,” Syeed Habib, an elected local body representative, said, referring to the biggest Muslim festival.
Habib lives in a village in Poonch on the disputed border stretch, known as the Line of Control, dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
“Only we understand the significance of the (peace) agreement because only we are living under a constant threat,” Habid told EFE.
Irshad Khwaja, a social activist in north Kashmir’s Uri border sector, is happy but apprehensive because the two countries “are not serious about people’s lives and properties.”
“Let us hope that good sense prevails on them,” he told EFE, recalling how peace agreements between India and Pakistan have fallen apart in the past.
Kashmiri politicians across the divided spectrum too have welcomed the move towards peace.
“It is a move in the right direction that will provide relief to the beleaguered people living under a constant threat on the LoC,” Hurriyat Conference, an amalgam of pro-freedom parties, said in a statement.
Pro-India politician and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti called it a “big and welcome development that India and Pakistan have agreed to a ceasefire along the LoC.”