Ceasefire between ELN and Bogota in Columbia and India and Pakistan prepare for Cyclone Biparjoy
Columbia: Bogota and ELN sign ceasefire agreement
The National Liberation Army (ELN) – Colombia’s largest remaining guerilla group – signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in Bogota on June 9 following months of negotiations. The ceasefire marks a significant development in the intermittent peace discussions between the state and the organization that have been ongoing since 2017, although the efficacy of the agreement to reduce violence levels across the country will likely be limited. The 6-month-ceasefire will come into effect on Aug. 3 and will be implemented in three stages to establish protocols, monitoring procedures, and community dialogues. The UN Verification Mission to Colombia and the Catholic Church will lead the monitoring effort and ensure compliance with international humanitarian law. The ceasefire agreement follows the third round of peace talks between Bogota and the ELN that commenced in Havana on May 2. Negotiations between the ELN and the Colombian government initially began in 2017 and culminated in the 102-day bilateral ceasefire that began in October of that year. However, the agreement concluded without an option to extend, and the ELN continued conducting attacks targeting critical infrastructure, government facilities, and civilians; talks were suspended following a bombing at a Bogota police academy in January 2019. President Gustavo Petro restarted the discussion in November 2022 as part of his “Total Peace” initiative, which aims to extend the peace negotiations to all armed groups, including paramilitary successor organizations such as dissident Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) factions and Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC) – also known as Los Urabeños and Clan de Golfo. While the June 9 ceasefire agreement marks a milestone in Pedro’s peace agenda, it is unlikely to significantly improve the security environment across the country as tensions between the state and the ELN are no longer the primary cause of violence in Colombia. The ceasefire does not call for a complete cessation of hostilities – rather, it specifically prohibits violence between the ELN and Colombian security services. Given this narrow scope, the agreement is unlikely to deter the ELN from engaging in territorial disputes with rival armed groups or conducting intimidation campaigns in its strongholds, including the departments of Chocó, Arauca, and Norte de Santander. The temporary halt in fighting between the ELN and government forces will likely shift state security forces’ focus to other criminal actors, which could allow the ELN to consolidate territorial control in disputed regions. Alternatively, a successful ceasefire could create a power vacuum and prompt rival groups to seize control of areas previously held by the ELN, potentially leading to an increase in localized violence as occurred following the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC.
India & Pakistan: Coastal areas prepare for Cyclone Biparjoy landfall
A tropical cyclone currently tracking over the Arabian Sea is projected to bring heavy rains and destruction to the coasts of India and Pakistan on June 15. Cyclone Biparjoy is forecast to make landfall near Jakhau port in the western Indian state of Gujarat, with extremely heavy rainfall, strong winds, floods, and possible blackouts likely to impact the entire coast between Mandvi in Gujarat and Karachi in Pakistan’s Sindh Province. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has assessed that the “Very Severe Cyclonic Storm” will make landfall at sustained wind speeds of 125-135 km/h (77-83 mph) with gusts up to 150 km/h (93mph) – the fifth highest of seven categories on IMD’s scale, and equivalent to a Category 1 Hurricane on the Western Hemisphere’s Saffir–Simpson scale. The cyclone is forecast to weaken following landfall as it moves north-eastward toward southern Rajasthan, while bringing sustained heavy rains in northern Gujarat until June 17. Nearly 38,000 people have been evacuated from Gujarat’s coastal districts, while 69 regional routes of the Indian Western Railway and operations at the ports of Kandla and Mundra have been suspended. Twenty-one teams of India’s National Defense Response Force (NDRF) and thirteen teams of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) are on standby for rescue operations. The Pakistani military expects to have evacuated about 80,000 people from coastal towns by the afternoon of June 15. The North Indian Ocean Basin tropical cyclone season typically lasts from April to December, with cyclones occurring less frequently than any other region in the world. Biparjoy is the second cyclone of the 2023 season and appears to be weaker than past storms in the region, though it is projected to cause heavy rains and potentially trigger large storm surges and heavy flooding. Disruptions to services and significant destruction are expected to last until the storm dissipates by June 17, with recovery efforts likely commencing thereafter.