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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 16, New Delhi, April 3, 2021

Back from the Brink: The Indo-Pak Rapprochement | Padder & Wani

Friday 2 April 2021

by Dr. Sajad Padder & Prof. Gull Wani *


On February 25, 2021 the Director Generals of Military Operations of India and Pakistan announced a joint statement which read: “both sides agreed for strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease-firing along the Lone of Control and all other sectors with effect from midnight 24/25 February 2021”. It further reads: “In the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders, the two DGMOs agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns which have propensity to disturb peace and lead to violence”.

This ceasefire agreement succeeds the November 2003 agreement which ushered an era of peace along the borders till around 2011. The subsequent years saw a steady rise in the number cease-fire violations (CFVs). The 2008 Mumbai terror attacks gave a setback to the peace process even though some unsuccessful attempts were made to revive it.

The following table draws some light over the decline of CFVs after the 2003 agreement [1]:

Year CFVs Causalities
2003 2841 Not Available
2004 04 Nil
2005 6 Nil
2006 3 Nil
2007 21 3
2008 86 6
2009 35 6
2010 70 5
2011 62 3

Peace Process (2004-08) & Confidence Building Measures

The India-Pakistan Composite Dialogue, which was revived on 6th January 2004 through a joint statement issued by Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee and President Gen. Musharraf, laid the ground for the formulation of the eight-point agenda that were detailed by the respective foreign secretaries in February 2004. The eight issues were: Peace and Security including CBMs, Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, Sir Creek, Terrorism and Drug Trafficking, Economic and Commercial Cooperation and Promotion of Friendly Exchanges in Various Fields [2]. The peace process led to the following CBMs [3]:

  • Delhi-Lahore bus service was started in 1999, but was stopped in light of the Kargil conflict. It was resumed in 2003;
  • The first bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad was started in 2005;
  • Bus services from Lahore to Amritsar, Amritsar to Nankana Sahib and train links between Munabao in Rajasthan and Khokhrapar in Sindh were started in 2006;
  • The Samjhauta Express, which runs between Delhi and Lahore, resumed service in 2005, and despite the 2007 blasts, has continued to run since;
  • The first overland truck route between the two countries was opened at the Wagah border crossing in 2007;
  • Air links were increased from 12 to 28 flights weekly, triple-entry permit for cross-LoC travel introduced and the frequency of the Srinagar- Muzaffarabad bus service increased from fortnightly to weekly, in 2008;
  • Agreement on Advance Notification of Ballistic Missile Tests — brought into effect in 2005 and required both parties to inform the other 72 hours in advance before testing any ballistic missiles within a 40 km radius of the International Border and the Line of Control (LoC);
  • Establishment of a Communication Link between Pakistan Maritime Security Agency and Indian Coast Guard — brought into effect in 2005, primarily to facilitate early exchange of information regarding fishermen apprehended for straying into each other’s waters;
  • A Joint Anti-Terrorism Institutional Mechanism to identify and implement counter-terrorism initiatives and investigations in both the countries was brought into effect in 2006; &
  • Foreign Ministers of both countries agreed to a series of Kashmir-specific CBMs to facilitate crossing the LoC in 2008. A new dimension was added to Indo-Pak trade relationship with the revival of cross- LoC trade in October 2008.

Jammu & Kashmir

During the period from 2004-2007, General Musharraf put forward various proposals for resolving the Kashmir imbroglio. In November 2003 in an interview with the BBC Radio Urdu Service, Musharraf re-introduced his ‘four-step’ approach to Kashmir, one he had tentatively put across during the Agra talks which offered to eliminate all options unacceptable to India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir and then evolve a consensual solution. The ‘four-steps’ envisaged [4]:

  • Official talks commence.
  • Centrality of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute is acknowledged.
  • Any proposal unacceptable to India, Pakistan or Kashmiris is taken off the table.
  • Best solution acceptable to India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris is taken.

It is believed that the Musharraf’s ‘four-step’ proposal was discussed amongst the officials of both countries during the course of Composite Dialogue Process. In September 24, 2004, General Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh met in New York and signed a joint statement indicating that they would start looking into various options on Kashmir and take the peace process forward. On December 5, 2006, Musharraf further polished his ideas and put forward the ‘four point formula’:

  • Softening of LoC for trade and free movement of people.
  • Self governance/ autonomy.
  • De-militarization from whole of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Joint supervision/ management.

While the official process of Composite Dialogue and Musharraf’s ‘thinking aloud’ in the media continued between 2003 and 2007, an unofficial back channel was activated to discuss issues in an informal and more nuanced manner. The two principal envoys were—for Pakistan, a college classmate of Musharraf named Tariq Aziz, and for India it was Satinder Lambah. Their exertions produced a framework solution that was cleared on the Indian side by the Cabinet Committee on Security and on the Pakistani side by the Corps Commanders Conference, before domestic political difficulties triggered by his dismissal of the Chief Justice forced Musharraf to back off [5].

Significance of the February 25, 2021 Ceasefire Agreement 

The announcement of ceasefire on 25th February 2021 was announced amidst the deep freeze in bilateral relations. The Pulwama suicide attack on the Central Reserve Police Force of India on 14 February 2019 led to the killing to 40 soldiers. India, in retaliation, conducted an airstrike in Balakot on 26 February while Pakistan responded by conducting airstrikes in Indian-administered Kashmir. Following Pakistan’s airstrikes, Indian Air Force (IAF) jets started pursuing Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jets. In the resulting dogfight, Pakistan claimed to have shot down two Indian jets and captured one Indian pilot.

Subsequently, on 5 August 2019, India abrogated Article 370 which granted special status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir within the Union of India. The event led to further deterioration of relations between the two countries. Pakistan raised the issue at different international forums claiming that India acted in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir. India retorted by claiming inviolability of its sovereignty claims over Jammu & Kashmir. Both the countries recalled their respective High Commissions, downgraded diplomatic relations, stopped bilateral trade and took resort to heavy shelling along the LoC.

The current ceasefire is expected to reverse the downslide in bilateral relations. In the first stage trade along the international border would be restarted, diplomatic links revived, sports exchanges, release of some prisoners etc. This might pave the way for Indian Prime Minister attending the much awaited 19th SAARC summit in Islamabad. In between there is murmur of a ‘hard talk’ on Terrorism and Jammu & Kashmir. Threads for the latter could be picked up from the Musharraf’s formulations mentioned above.

Making the India-Pakistan Peace Process Uninterruptible

The recent India-China standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) makes it amply clear that the bilateral relationship is strong enough to withstand even the deadly skirmishes at the border. At the back of this strong relationship is a trade volume of the order of around $88 billion [6]. In-spite of trade boycott calls from different quarter’s pragmatism holds that there’re economic complementarities between the two countries and trade is beneficial for both, notwithstanding the surplus in China’s favour. Then the moot question is why Indo-Pakistan relations are most vulnerable to even minor skirmishes at the border? There are different reasons responsible for ranging from negative media coverage on both sides which makes it difficult for the policy makers to act prudently, hostile public opinion, disturbances in Jammu & Kashmir and more importantly lack of economic stakes in the relationship. Trade between the two sides never touched the mark of $3 billion even though the unofficial trade, including through third countries, is estimated at around $2 billion [7]. A report by the World Bank estimated the bilateral trade potential at $37 billion and cited continued political tensions and lack of normal trade relations as the main reasons for low volumes of trade [8]. The Indo-Pak hostility is the main reason for lack of regional integration in South Asia. While the regional organisations like European Union, Association of Southeast Asian Nations & United States—Mexico—Canada Agreement (USMCA or New NAFTA) helped in regional integration in their respective regions, South Asia is lagging behind with less than 5% intra-regional trade. We are eagerly waiting for a Schuman Declaration for South Asia: The coming together of India and Pakistan through economic cooperation where war between the two countries becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.

* (Authors: Dr. Sajad Padder is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Govt. Degree College Khansahib, Budgam, Jammu & Kashmir (email: sajadpadder98[at]  and Prof. Gull Wani is heading the Department of Political Science at the University of Kashmir, Srinagar )

[1Jacob, Happymon. Line on Fire: Ceasefire Violations and India-Pakistan Escalation Dynamics. Oxford University Press, 2019, p. 150.

[2Padder, Sajad. “The Composite Dialogue between India and Pakistan: Structure, Process and Agency”. Working Paper No. 65, South Asia Institute, Department of Political Science, Heidelberg University, February 2020, p. 02.

[3Ghosh, Samarjit. “Two Decades of Indo-Pak CBMs: A Critique from India”, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi, Issue Brief 132, September 2009. Retrieved from:

[4The Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs mentioned it in its official brief in 2005.

[5Varadarajan Siddharth, “Time to End the Impasse with Pakistan”, The Hindu, April 26, 2010

[6Krishnan, Ananth. “India’s trade with China falls in 2020, deficit at five-year low”, The Hindu, January 15, 2021. Retrieved from:

[7Kugelman, Michael & Rebert M. Hathaway. “India-Pakistan Trade: What Needs To Be Done? What Does It Matter?” Wilson Centre, 2013, p. 60.

[8Malik, Shahroo. “India & Pakistan’s Untapped Trade Potential”, South Asian Voices, February 20, 2020. Retrieved from:,standards%20and%20lengthy%20procedures%20and

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