The Asian Age
‘ Pak Army provides cover to militants’
Why is Pakistan indulging in such heavy firing at the IndoPak border?
Since July 17, firing from Pakistani side continues unabated. Pakistani forces keep on attempting such kind of sniping; this is not unusual. When one of our boys got swept away in the Chenab river, we spoke to them immediately, and also put pressure on them. Our jawan was returned in 48 hours on August 8. We thanked them profusely. In fact, I sent a letter to the DG ( Pakistan Rangers) thanking him. It was a good gesture on Pakistan’s part. But what really surprised us was that sniping resumed the very next day, on August 9. Since then, firing has continued — sometimes it occurs early morning, sometimes late evening and, of course, late at night. We have retaliated.
On a couple of occasions we have noticed movement of armed people in civilian dress very close to the international border. Now why should civilians with arms move in that area? Since we have not caught them, we cannot say who are these militants, what groups they belong to, but the natural inference is that if a civilian is moving with arms in the dead of the night so close to the international border, he is not a regular person. Also, there has been intelligence input on the presence of militant groups. How many terror camps are active along the border on the Pakistani side?
Terror camps exist in good numbers. Along the border, there would be 35- 40 launching pads of militant groups. In each pad, militants come and go. The number of occupants keeps varying. While the training camps are little inside the Pakistan- occupied Kashmir, the launching pads are very close to the border so that at the earliest opportunity the militants can cross over. What is the modus operandi of the militant outfits
operating along the border?
When Pakistan Rangers are firing, infiltration attempts are made at a different place because they presume that Indian troops are engaged in firing. The firing is basically done to divert our attention. Sometimes Pakistan gives cover but only when there is no heightened tension between India and Pakistan else they know it will be retaliated. However, there are certain locations where militants feel that they won’t be caught in the crossfire and they can cross over. So these kinds of attempts always occur. What do you think is the biggest problem on the border?
There are too many players in the game. Questions like who commands whom, who gives direction to whom, who is calling the shots at a particular given time is very difficult to say. Whether it is the handiwork of Pakistan military, the Inter- Services Intelligence, or the Pakistan Rangers? It keeps on changing. One thing is certain though, that the Pakistani Army has a predominant role in border management unlike the BSF. We are not under the control of the Army, we are independent as far as the international border is concerned. At a certain stretch of LoC, we are with the Army that has operational control. But on the IB, we are exclusive and the Army has no role at all. Has there been any positive outcome of the flag meetings?
There have been two flag meetings — on August 27 and August 29 — but the outcome is not very encouraging. In fact, when the first flag meeting took place in Akhnoor sector, Pakistani offi- cers came not to discuss any issue but to say that the level of the flag meeting should be raised to the sector commandant level from the battalion commandant level. Pakistan could have asked for a sector commandant level meeting in the first place; it was only buying time.
And on that night itself there was an infiltration attempt at the very place where the meeting took place. Late in the night seven or eight people, who by their gestures and body language appeared to be well trained, were carrying arms and night vision devices. They were observing us. It is all recorded in our surveillance devices. When they came very close to the border, we fired and immediately the retaliation came from a nearby Pakistani post instead of this militant group. This shows that active support is being given by the Pakistani forces to the militants.
On one hand, you call for a flag meeting and on the other you make infiltration attempts and provide cover to militants. This is not done. Are you satisfied with the response of your men?
Yes, extremely. We gave a fitting reply to firing by the Pakistanis — with heavy intensity and volume of fire. Our retaliation was many times stronger than firing from Pakistan’s side.
The government has been backing all our efforts and our force is very spirited. The fact that the Pakistani side came forward for the talks shows that they felt the heat. In our retaliatory firing, some Pakistani soldiers were injured. But the Pakistani media does not highlight the casualties or injuries of their security forces. How has Pakistan reacted to our retaliation?
As per their own media reports, there has been mobilisation of Pakistan Army troops; there has been diversion of Pakistan Rangers from one area to another, particularly in the area where the firing has been going on. There have also been reports about mobilisation of tanks in that area on their side of the border. Though we cannot see from our side since there is a very dense forest cover on their side, media reports from Muzaffarabad have reported mobilisation of tanks.