In an unexpected development on February 25, India and Pakistan announced their recommitment to a ceasefire along the Line of Control and other disputed sections of the border between the archrivals. The announcement, which came amid progress in military disengagement between Chinese and Indian forces in eastern Ladakh and as U.S. President Joe Biden settles into office, had surprised many analysts and observers. Almost exactly two years before, India had launched airstrikes inside mainland Pakistan, leading Pakistan to retaliate in kind in India-administered Kashmir. New Delhi’s August 2019 decision to effectively abrogate Jammu and Kashmir’s constitutionally guaranteed special autonomous status had also led some to be pessimistic about the future trajectory of India-Pakistan relations, as tensions between the two reached boiling point in 2020.
While the latest announcement is but one instance where both sides have affirmed to a ceasefire, its language as well as timing has agitated the imaginations of many South Asian security observers. Could the announcement be prelude to dialogue between the two countries? Can both Islamabad and New Delhi square their domestic compulsions with geopolitical imperatives to bring sustained peace to the region? What role have external powers played (if any) in securing the ceasefire? And finally, under what circumstances could the ensuing fragile peace be disturbed?