The surprising U-turn taken by the PM Modi-led government on Wednesday by declaring a conditional unilateral ceasefire during the holy month of Ramzan in Kashmir at a time when the security forces had achieved an upper hand over the Pakistan-backed terrorists has upset the defence experts as well as the mainstream political parties.

Interestingly, the Centre’s decision has come two days before the Prime Minister Narendera Modi is scheduled to visit Jammu and Kashmir on 19 May, when he will touch all three regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh conveyed the Centre’s decision to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in the afternoon.

Rajnath Singh announced on the tweeter in the afternoon; “The Centre has asked Security forces not to launch operations in Jammu & Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan. Decision taken to help the peace loving Muslims observe Ramzan in a peaceful environment.”

“Security Forces to reserve the right to retaliate of attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people. Government expects everyone to cooperate in this initiative and help the Muslim brothers & sisters to observe Ramzan peacefully and without any difficulties”.

In another tweet, Rajnath Singh said; “It is important to isolate the forces that bring a bad name to Islam by resorting to mindless violence and terror”.

The announcement of the Home Minister Rajnath Singh came as a surprise particularly in the Jammu regions, whereas the Kashmir-centric parties welcomed the decision.

Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti responded to the ceasefire announcement by tweeting: “I wholeheartedly welcome the Ramadan ceasefire & would like to thank @narenderamodi ji & @rajnathsingh ji for their personal intervention. My gratitude also to the leaders & parties who participated in the All Party Meeting & helped build consensus towards this announcement”. “The month of Ramadan is a harbinger of peace & such a decision will go a long way in creating a peaceful & amicable environment for a sustained dialogue”.

Former Chief Minister and leader of opposition, Omar Abdullah, welcoming the centre’s decision said that the militants shall stand exposed as the true enemies of the people if they don’t respond in kind. Omar tweeted; “On the demand of all political parties (except the BJP, which had opposed it) the Centre has announced a unilateral ceasefire. Now if the militants don’t respond in kind they will stand exposed as the true enemies of the people.

What has surprised the observers is that the Modi government reversed their earlier decision on the sensitive issue of declaring unilateral ceasefire after declaration of the Karnataka Assembly results.

On Monday, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had rejected the ceasefire proposal by stressing that the “Indian Army has to firmly handle any terrorism which threatens the peace and harmony of Jammu and Kashmir. The Army’s position is that it has to be firm on terrorism.”

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had in a recent all-party meeting in Srinagar urged the centre to declare unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir during the Ramzan and upcoming Amarnath pilgrimage. The BJP that is sharing power with her in the state had rejected her proposal and described such move as “anti-national”.

In a subsequent meeting of the unified command of the Army and security forces, in her capacity as chairperson, CM Mehbooba asked them to avoid crackdowns during the Ramzan.

A former DGP of Jammu and Kashmir Police, MM Khajuria, expressing surprise at the Centre’s announcement described it as “anti-national” and said it will demoralise the security forces that had eliminated about 265 terrorists during the past two years.

Reacting to J-K Mehbooba’s ceasefire demand, a retired Army chief General VP Malik had tweeted; “Ceasefire in Kashmir? Shows terrorists & supporters under pressure. Want time & space to reorganize. Ceasefire works between two armies. It has never worked with terrorists. Who in J&K will assure peace on behalf of terrorists? Let Army do its job-curb violence against the state”.