The four-day talks between Pakistan and India concluded in New Delhi on Saturday with the two countries agreeing to ensure that no firing takes place along the Sialkot border. After continued hostilities and a series of diplomatic breakdowns, dare we say it? Is this actual progress?

The agreement is being called a breakthrough and came at the bi-annual meeting between Pakistan Rangers and Indian Border Security Force (BSF). It is said that the meeting was held under a cordial atmosphere with both sides also agreeing to carryout joint investigations of future ceasefire violations. Pakistan raised the issue of killing of Rangers’ soldiers on which Indians assured non-repetition of such happenings and they also agreed to joint investigation of all serious firing incidents in the future. The Indians agreed to stop Cease Fire Violation (CFVs) through enhanced communication through multiple modes at all possible levels. While we know that India cannot be fully trusted, there is room to hope that they will keep their word and tensions along the Working Boundary will decrease, at least temporarily.

This also goes to show that when the uniforms want to do something they do it - the will has to be there. Maybe this can be seen as a signal by the military establishment that political dialogue can and should be held in earnest. Civilian leaders, on both sides of the borders, have only made things worse until now. This small improvement must be capitalised on by political leaders before the feel good factor from it dissipates.

At the end of the day, only the lives of innocent people living in bordering villages are at stake from firing, people who in the grand scheme of things are not responsible for the problems between the two countries. Stories about the firings are harrowing. On August 5, three villagers were killed and 23 injured in a heavy mortar attack by Indian forces on border villages. Kashmir is not the only region where Pakistan and India need a resolution. In the run up to an actual sit-down between mediators, whenever that happens, the countries need to contain physical hostilities. Pakistan has made it clear that there will be no talks without Kashmir. India has made it clear that there will be no talks if the K word is mentioned. Until we can resolve this impasse, the guns need not come out.