HID­DEN HAND OF RAWALPINDI

India Today - - INSIDE - By San­deep Un­nithan

The Line of Con­trol between In­dia and Pak­istan is a treach­er­ous place at the best of times. But no threat, not the peaks and ravines along its con­tested 740 km fron­tier nor enemy bul­lets, matches what the In­dian army calls ‘BAT ac­tion’. In th­ese, the Pak­istan army’s ‘bor­der ac­tion teams’ of SSG com­man­dos con­duct night-time in­fil­tra­tions and lie in am­bush for In­dian army pa­trols. On May 1, a sus­pected BAT team in­fil­trated over 200 me­tres across the LoC and killed two mem­bers of a pa­trol, BSF head con­sta­ble Prem Sa­gar and naib sube­dar Paramjit Singh, and then went on to mu­ti­late the bod­ies, trig­ger­ing out­rage in In­dia. “Such at­tacks don’t take place even dur­ing war, let alone peace,” an out­raged de­fence min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley said af­ter the in­ci­dent. BAT ac­tions—and mu­ti­la­tions—have been

in­fre­quently used by the Pak­istan army as an es­ca­la­tion tool along the LoC, be­gin­ning with the mu­ti­la­tion of the bod­ies of Capt. Sau­rabh Kalia and his five-man pa­trol team in 1999. On oc­ca­sion, such out­rage has even led to di­rect mil­i­tary ac­tion. The last such in­ci­dent oc­curred in Oc­to­ber 2016 when a BAT team mu­ti­lated the body of a soldier, Man­jeet Singh, in the Machchil sec­tor. That in­ci­dent led to fe­ro­cious fire as­saults from the In­dian side where ar­tillery guns and mor­tars lev­elled sev­eral Pak­istani posts and sol­diers.

Like ter­ror at­tacks, BAT ac­tions are ef­fec­tive tools for the Pak­istan Army to as­sert it­self against In­dia—as also its own civil­ian lead­er­ship. This is why In­dian mil­i­tary an­a­lysts be­lieve the May 1 out­rage could per­haps have been a warn­ing shot—one not nec­es­sar­ily aimed di­rectly at In­dia.

Indo-Pak ties con­tin­ued to slide af­ter last year’s Uri at­tack, the fol­low-up sur­gi­cal strikes, at­tacks by cross-bor­der ter­ror­ists and, fi­nally, the April 10 death sen­tence for al­leged In­dian spy Kulb­hushan Jad­hav, kid­napped from Iran last year. How­ever, the twin mu­ti­la­tions mark a new low in ties between the two na­tions, with pres­sure build­ing on the ground for a re­tal­ia­tory strike.

This comes at a time when prospects of a meet­ing between the two prime min­is­ters had bright­ened. A meet­ing between the two sides on the side­lines of the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion (June 8-9) is still not be­ing ruled out. The two had last met in La­hore in De­cem­ber 2015, when PM Naren­dra Modi paid a sur­prise visit be­fore the Jan­uary 2016 Pathankot air­base at­tack scut­tled talks. Now, with an In­dian army reprisal al­most a given, the stage is set for an­other round of es­ca­la­tions along the LoC.

BAT ac­tions are ef­fec­tive tools for the Pak army to as­sert it­self against In­dia, and its own civil­ian lead­er­ship

Naib sube­dar Paramjit Singh’s body ar­rives at his vil­lage, Vein Poin, near Am­rit­sar LAST RITES

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