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SOURCE: THE PRINT

Emphasising that the ball is in Pakistan’s court when it comes to the normalisation of bilateral relations, top government sources told ThePrint that the Shehbaz Sharif government must act on anti-terror commitments.

The sources also said that they’re not expecting anything dramatic to happen as a result of the Imran Khan government being replaced by that of Sharif. “Nothing of that sort is expected,” a high-ranking source said when asked if India-Pakistan ties will see an upswing because a new civilian government has been sworn in.

With Sharif in power, there has been recurring speculation that ties between the two countries — which worsened after the Balakot air strike in 2019 — could see major improvement.

While Pakistan was the first to pull out its high commissioner, India subsequently did the same, and neither country has yet posted a new one.

“Nothing dramatic is expected. We as a country want to have good relations with all our neighbours. Because neighbours cannot be replaced. However, in the case of our western neighbour, the ball is in Pakistan’s court,” the source said.

Asked if this meant that Pakistan needs to appoint a high commissioner first, the source said, “Kashmir is a festering issue. Jammu and Kashmir has been an integral part of India, will be an integral part of India and will continue to be an integral part of India. Terror cannot continue.”

When it was pointed out that there are multiple pressure groups in Pakistan who try to curtail any steps taken on peace between the two countries by launching terror attacks, the source said, “Yes there are. But the government should be seen taking genuine steps to stop support to terrorism. Steps have to be taken to give us the confidence that Pakistan is serious. It cannot be business as usual.”

LoC ceasefire

The assertion by the government comes at a time when terrorists remain active in Jammu and Kashmir, carrying out targeted killings of Kashmiri Pandits, political workers and non-locals.

India and Pakistan have, however, managed to enforce a ceasefire agreement put in place at the Line of Control (LoC) in February last year.

But defence sources said that the ceasefire is being maintained because the Pakistan Army wanted it as a breather so that they could focus on their western border – Afghanistan.

The sources also pointed out that India’s tough responses to Pakistan’s ceasefire violations have meant that the latter has suffered heavy casualties — not just in terms of the number of soldiers, but also their military positions and bunkers.

They said that unlike earlier, the Indian Army had over the past two years of ceasefire violations specifically targeted battalions that had Punjabi soldiers, which made it difficult for the Pakistan Army to hide casualties. 

The sources explained that for the Pakistan Army, soldiers from the Baloch or Mujahid regiments are cannon fodder. However, when body bags go back to Punjab, it results in societal pressure, since Punjab dominates the power structure in Pakistan. 

They added that Pakistan has been using this period to beef up its infrastructure, and has also inducted better artillery firepower.