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Sunday, August 14, 2011

INDO-PAK TIES: Fragile peace for soldiers on the Indo-Pak border!

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Reuters / / Posted on Aug 14, 2011 at 12:45pm IST.

Suchetgarh: It has been nearly eight years since India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire over Kashmir - long enough for residents to start building brick houses and plant paddy fields up to the edge of one of the world's most heavily militarised borders. But for soldiers guarding the disputed frontier, it is a fragile peace that can be broken at any time.

"I wouldn't call our relationship on the border cordial. We characterise it as professional," said an officer of India's Border Security Force (BSF), speaking on condition he not be identified because of the sensitivity of his assignment on the frontline.

Now, as India and Pakistan embark on a tentative peace process and try to decide how to open their borders to trade and travel, it will be the situation on the ground in places such as Suchetgarh that determine the pace of the detente.

In June, trouble erupted in the area when the BSF lost a soldier and blamed Pakistani sniper fire. The Pakistani Rangers, who are within shouting distance, denied any involvement and suggested it could be an internal issue.

The Indians retaliated with small arms fire, but the exchange lasted barely an hour. That was in contrast to the artillery duels the foes engaged in along the Line of Control in Kashmir - sometimes every day during particularly bad spells of their relationship - before the ceasefire in November 2003.

Ever since, a cold peace has held on the zig-zag border that begins in Suchetgarh, in the dry plains of the Jammu region, and winds its way to the rugged heights of Kashmir.

"We are not on hair-trigger alert, but we cannot lower our guard either. Not even for a moment," said the officer, sitting in a tent barely 100 metres from the border crossing, marked by two high gates with the flags of the two countries fluttering.

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