Flash Point LoC – View­Point

As a large and ma­tured na­tion we should avoid get­ting bogged down by a bor­der in­ci­dent no mat­ter how grue­some it may seem to be. To give Pak­istan a chance to sur­vive and en­gage in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity will in the long run be more con­ducive to sta­bil­ity in th

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - LT GEN­ERAL (RETD) V.K. KAPOOR The author is a spe­cial­ist in ar­moured and mech­a­nised war­fare, and in the art of wargam­ing. He was the Com­man­dant of the Army War Col­lege at Mhow.

Lt Gen­eral (Retd) V.K. Kapoor

HEAD­LINES OF NATIONAL DAILIES both in English and Hindi of Au­gust 7, 2013, were full of the news of the five soldiers of the In­dian Army killed dur­ing an am­bush by a bor­der ac­tion team of the (BAT) of Pak­istan Army. A sixth sol­dier was also in­jured in the same op­er­a­tion. An ex­tract from De­fence Min­is­ter A.K. Antony’s state­ment in the Par­lia­ment read:

“A patrol of In­dian Army com­pris­ing one non com­mis­sioned of­fi­cer and five other ranks was am­bushed on our side of line of con­trol (LoC) in Punch Sec­tor of Jammu and Kash­mir (J&K) early morn­ing on Au­gust 6, 2013. In the en­su­ing fire fight, five In­dian soldiers were killed and one in­jured. The am­bush was car­ried out by ap­prox­i­mately 20 heav­ily armed ter­ror­ists along with per­sons dressed in Pak­istan Army uni­forms.”

It was also stated by the De­fence Min­is­ter that the num­bers of in­fil­tra­tion at­tempts have dou­bled this year in com­par­i­son to the cor­re­spond­ing pe­riod (Jan­uary 1-Au­gust 5) of 2012. There has also been 57 cease fire vi­o­la­tions this year which is 80 per cent more than the vi­o­la­tions last year dur­ing the same cor­re­spond­ing pe­riod. The In­dian Army suc­cess­fully elim­i­nated 19 hard­core ter­ror­ists in the re­cent months of July and Au­gust along the LoC and in the hin­ter­land in J&K. The ef­fec­tive counter in­fil­tra­tion grid on the LoC has en­sured that 17 in­fil­tra­tion bids were foiled this year.

The op­po­si­tion se­verely crit­i­cised the De­fence Min­is­ter stat­ing that he was pro­vid­ing an al­ibi for Pak­istan by say­ing that it was an act of ter­ror­ism and thus ab­solv­ing the State from any role in this das­tardly act. On Au­gust 8, 2013, the Min­is­ter said that “spe­cial­ist troops” of the Pak­istani Army were re­spon­si­ble for the killings, thus end­ing the im­passe in the par­lia­ment. The In­dian Army per­son­nel it seems were on a rou­tine “area dom­i­na­tion patrol” in the stretch be­tween the line of con­trol and the anti-in­fil­tra­tion fence con­structed on own side by In­dia. Four­teen Maratha LI which had ar­rived in the sec­tor re­cently was in the process of tak­ing over the area and was fa­mil­iaris­ing it­self with the ter­rain along with the per­son­nel of the out­go­ing 21 Bi­har bat­tal­ion and there­fore it was a mixed patrol that was am­bushed by the Pak­istan Army per­son­nel. Pak­istan, mean­while, has ve­he­mently de­nied the in­volve­ment of its troops. This was in keep­ing with the usual reaction of Pak­istan to all such in­tru­sions and ac­tions on the line of con­trol.

The larger is­sue that needs to be de­bated is whether we are be­ing too soft in deal­ing with Pak­istan which apart from fos­ter­ing a proxy war in Kash­mir, is con­tin­u­ing to train and en­cour­age ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties across the bor­der through the In­ter-Ser­vices In­tel­li­gence (ISI) in the en­tire state of Jammu and Kash­mir and in­deed, on a lower key, in the rest of In­dia too. It is an­tic­i­pated that af­ter the withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan, the bat­tle hard­ened Tal­iban may well be di­verted to­wards In­dia thus in­creas­ing our se­cu­rity prob­lems and com­mit­ments. This in­ci­dent also seems to have marred the re­vival of the com­pos­ite dia­logue sched­uled to be­gin later this month with the Sec­re­tary level talks over the Wullar Bar­rage. It is re­ported that Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh is likely to go ahead with his plan to meet Nawaz Sharif on the side­lines of the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly meet­ing next month. The op­po­si­tion in the mean­time has warned the govern­ment against giv­ing any quar­ter to Pak­istan, thus vir­tu­ally re­duc­ing the ma­noeu­vre space for Man­mo­han Singh ahead of elec­tions in 2014.

The larger ques­tion that re­mains unan­swered is “should we or should we not go ahead with the talks with Pak­istan”. My views on this is­sue are very clear that as a large and ma­tured na­tion we should avoid get­ting bogged down by a bor­der in­ci­dent no mat­ter how grue­some it may seem to be. We are aware that there are many power cen­tres in Pak­istan but to give their democ­racy a chance to sur­vive and to en­gage them in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity will in the long run be more con­ducive to sta­bil­ity in the re­gion. We should en­gage them but on our terms of putting down cer­tain con­di­tions on the ta­ble. The In­dian Army is quite ca­pa­ble of tak­ing care of it­self and can in­flict pun­ish­ment on Pak­istan Army. The best way to make Pak­istan Army de­sist from such acts is to se­verely pu­n­ish them and thus dom­i­nate our area of re­spon­si­bil­ity.

In the early 1990s, in­sur­gency in J&K was at its peak and Pak­istan re­sorted to clan­des­tinely es­tab­lish­ing a post in the In­dian vil­lage of Kirni in the same Poonch Sec­tor. In the en­su­ing in­ci­dent of an at­tack by the In­dian Army to evict the post and sub­se­quent coun­ter­at­tacks by Pak­istan Army to re­gain the post re­sulted in very heavy ca­su­al­ties be­ing in­flicted on the Pak­istan Army by ar­tillery fire, re­sult­ing in more than 200 soldiers killed and wounded. For the next few years, the Pak­istan Army did not dare to taken any ac­tion in the Poonch sec­tor. The les­son is that they un­der­stand the lan­guage of vi­o­lence and there­fore the only way to teach them is to give them a taste of their own medicine. If we know our Army they will do just that. So let us give a free hand to our Army and not get too worked up as a na­tion on this is­sue. There are many more se­ri­ous con­cerns with re­gard to mod­erni­sa­tion of the armed forces and ca­pa­bil­ity build­ing which our De­fence Min­is­ter is ne­glect­ing and which needs to be se­ri­ously ad­dressed by the in­ef­fec­tive UPA Govern­ment.

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