Home Pakistan Army Firing Across LoC: Raising the Ante in Kashmir

Pakistan Army Firing Across LoC: Raising the Ante in Kashmir

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley’s blunt warning to the Pakistani establishment to desist from ‘adventurism’ on the Line of Control (LoC) and the international boundary (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir or be prepared to pay an ‘unaffordable’ price has had a salutary effect. At least for the time being, the guns have fallen silent.

In blatant violation of the cease-fire agreement of November 2003, the Pakistan army has been resorting to unprovoked firing across the since the summer began this year. In Poonch and Rajouri districts, Indian army posts along the LoC in the areas of Krishna Ghati (KG), Mankote, Balakote, Keriand,Bhimber Gali (BG),Sabjian and Mandi have been attacked with automatic weapons like medium machine guns and have been subjected to shelling with 81 mm mortars. Earlier, border guards of the Pakistan Rangers had brought down heavy machine gun fire on Indian BOPs located in Pragwal area of Akhnoor tehsil of Jammu on the night of August 26-27.

The recent incidents occurred after an uneasy lull, following DGMO-level discussions to reduce tensions on August 26th and Commandant and IG-level flag meetings between the BSF and the Pakistan Rangers on August 27th, 28th and 29th. So far this year there have been almost 100 violations of the cease-fire, including 35 from mid-July to the end of September. The firing resulted in the death of many innocent civilians, particularly in Arnia village where 10 BOPs were targeted, injuries to many others and damage to property.

In all cases, the response of the army and the BSF was appropriate, proportionate and justifiable in view of the deliberate, bitterly hostile and extremely provocative actions of the Pakistan army and the Rangers.

The Pakistan army and the Rangers, who operate under the army’s operational command, are working to a carefully drawn up plan. The aim is to take advantage of the breaches in the fencing due to the heavy rainfall and the recent floods and provide covering fire to infiltrate and induct as many terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir as possible before the winter sets in. Apparently, the current military establishment has decided to give up former army Chief General Kayani’s policy of restraint on the eastern front with India while battling internal instability.

Under General Raheel Sharif, the army has once again decided to raise the ante and give the flagging proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir a nudge. It is also likely that the army wishes to divert attention from its counter-insurgency operations in North Waziristan, which have not gone as planned.Operation Azb-e-Zarb was launched in mid-July and has so far failed to eliminate the TTP from the area. Despite all the tall claims, all that has happened is that the TTP leadership and cadres have crossed the border and taken shelter in Afghanistan.

The Pakistan army is also conscious of the forthcoming elections to the state assembly in Jammu and Kashmir, which it would like to disrupt. Each successive election that is conducted successfully drives a new nail into the coffin of plebiscite and weakens Pakistan’s stand on the issue. It has been driven into a corner by India’s insistence that the dispute can only be resolved bilaterally under the Shimla Agreement of 1972 and that there can be no negotiations under the shadow of the gun. India has justifiably demanded that terrorism emanating from Pakistan must end conclusively and that the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror strikes of November 2008 be brought to justice.

Above all else, under General Raheel Sharif, the Pakistan army is attempting to gradually regain the strategic space that had been eroded after General Musharraf’s departure. Whether it is in respect of Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir, or the government’s peace overtures towards India and Afghanistan or the Musharraf trial for treason, through its recent assertiveness – including its tacit support to Imran Kahn and Tahir-ul-Qadri’s unruly street protests – the army is quietly telling Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the political parties that support him that there is a line in civil-military relations which must not be crossed. Raheel Sharif is a protégé of Musharraf and he will never allow his benefactor to be prosecuted.

If the Pakistan army does not see reason soon, the 780 km long LoC and the 110 km long International Boundary in the Jammu district are likely to remain active at least till the forthcoming state assembly elections are over. The civilian population of the forward areas will continue to pay the price for the Pakistan army’s folly. The NDA government must conduct a holistic review of India’s Pakistan policies and formulate coherent and consistent policies that are not driven by knee jerk reactions to emerging situations. The government must come to terms with the reality that in addition to the elected civilian government there is a ‘deep state’ in Pakistan and it must find the ways and means necessary to deal with it. Finally, it is important to keep a channel of communications open with the adversary even during war.

The writer is former Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi. Views expressed are personal.

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Brig Gurmeet Kanwal
Former Director
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