ISLAMABAD - When Directors-General Military Operations (DGMOs) of Pakistan and India meet face-to-face today at the Wagah Border, Lahore, to discuss specific measures for strengthening the bilateral ceasefire mechanism, Pakistani side will also raise the issue of India’s plan to erect a wall along the Line of Control (LoC).

The DGMOs of the two countries last met 14 years ago at the conclusion of the Kargil crisis to work out withdrawal modalities. Incidentally, the venue of the last meeting was also Wagah around mid 1999 and at that time it was Gen Tauqir Zia who represented Pakistan.

“The issue of fencing and India’s plan to build a wall will be taken up at the DGMOs’ meeting on Tuesday,” according to official sources who believe this move by India is a breach of its bilateral and international commitments.

The Indian side would be reminded that under the conventional CBMs agreed between the two countries, no additional defence installations can be erected along the LoC or the working border.

Pakistani sources maintain that India has been erecting barbed fences along the LoC while claiming that it is merely carrying out repair and maintenance work.

The fencing issue was first taken up in December 2003, within a month of the LoC Ceasefire Agreement between the two countries, when India started erecting a barbed fence in the disputed area. Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali raised Islamabad’s objection with the Indian leadership. Pakistan’s position was that Delhi must stop the fencing and not avoid taking advantage of the ceasefire pact.

Media reports reveal Indian plan to build a 10-meter-high wall along the LoC. According to a report published in a leading Pakistani daily on December 2 titled: ‘The new Berlin Wall’. India has announced plans to construct a wall along the LoC that would “be higher and wider than the notorious Berlin and Israeli walls”.

The report suggests that the 10-meter high wall to be built in the disputed Jammu sector would be 135-foot wide and 198-kilometer long. Reportedly, the earlier section of the fencing on the LoC that has been completed comprises two 12-foot high fences that run parallel. Apparently, the argument given by the Indians in support of fencing is that it is meant to stop infiltration.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD) activists staged a protest against the Indian plans in Rawalpindi last month. The JUD leaders threatened to demolish the wall if the Indians built it along the LoC to divide Kashmir. This issue was also raised at the national grand jirga of the Defence of Pakistan Council (DPC) in Peshawar on Sunday.

Both JUD and DPC are seen as often voicing concerns of Pakistan’s security institutions.

The much-awaited DGMOs’ meeting at the Wagah border is scheduled before noon. Notably, it will coincide with a meeting of the Pakistan Rangers DG and his Indian Border Security Force counterpart that will be held earlier in the day. “The meeting is being held in the context of the situation along the LoC and Working Boundary,” a senior military official said, pointing out that Pakistan Army had extended the invitation to the DGMO of Indian Army for this meeting. The DGMOs of both the countries would be assisted by a team of four military officers each.

“It is hoped that this meeting would work towards reducing tensions along the LoC and Working Boundary,” the military official said.

Maj-Gen Amir Riaz who will lead the Pakistan side consulted senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the weekend. India will be represented by Lt-Gen Vinod Bhatia.

The senior military officials will consider specific proposals for strengthening ceasefire and evolving a more effective monitoring mechanism to prevent its breaches. Pakistan will advocate a more cooperative approach on management of the 778-km LoC to ease the pressure of the military on the civilian population in the disputed region, it is learnt. Improving and upgrading communication links will be discussed to help check frequent violations. Establishing hotline contacts at the local commander level will be among the proposals to be tabled by Pakistan side to strengthen ceasefire, sources told The Nation.

Although the 2003 ceasefire agreement has held good for almost a decade, this year saw frequent and repeated violations, the highest so far. According to the latest figures obtained from Pakistan military sources, India has committed ceasefire violations 413 times on the LoC and 94 violations on Working Boundary so far this year. The Indian defence minister told the Lok Sabha on December 17 that Pakistan had committed 195 violations along the LOC in the same period.

“We want to do serious introspection and look into the key question of why this is happening now and what needs to be done to guard the ceasefire against such incidents,” a senior official noted ahead of the DGMOs’ meeting.

“It is a good beginning,” a Pakistani diplomat said, hoping the meeting would lead to an agreement on further strengthening the bilateral border mechanism.

Calm prevailed along the LoC after the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India met in New York on September 29 and decided to task their respective DGMOs to take immediate steps to stabilise the volatile situation along the LoC. However, curiously, last week violations of the ceasefire were again reported from both sides with incidents of firing with each side blaming the other.

The military officials of the two countries remain in touch through the weekly hotline contact, but when tensions peaked after the August 6 LoC flare-up, it was decided by the top leadership that the military officials should meet to normalise the situation. China was among the first to welcome this development, saying it has great significance for the entire region.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has repeatedly extended a hand of friendship to India and expressed his keenness to normalise relations with India, saying he is ready to go an extra mile.

Firing across the LoC was not in favour of either country, he noted in his recent meeting with the Indian high commissioner here.

Concluded on November 26, 2003, the ceasefire agreement between Pakistan and India was seen as a major confidence-building measure. It came into force along the 198-km international border in Jammu and Kashmir, the 778-km Line of Control and the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) in the Siachen-Saltaro Ridge.