Guns fall silent after border flare-up

Guns fall silent after border flare-up

As peace returned to the International Border (IB) and Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir after India’s strong response, the Army opined that the government’s tough stance has helped in demolishing Pakistan’s belief that India will always limit itself to token response.

The Army feels that the Centre has set new “rules of the game” which resulted in a quick de-escalation of the tension on the western front. Though there is no official word, every Pakistani shell was more than matched by the troops from the Army and Border Security Force.

Not only a large number of Pakistani bunkers and posts were destroyed, their stores and ammunition dumps were specifically targeted to inflict maximum damage.

Since many Pakistani posts are co-located in civilian settings, the human cost of the flare up was comparatively more across the border. Thousands of civilians had to be shifted to safer locations as Indian troops pounded the Pakistan establishment with 81 mm mortars and grenades at the nightfall.

Reports said Pakistani Rangers opened fire on four border outposts in the Hiranagar sector of Kathua district at 8 pm on Thursday night for more than 20 minutes. However, there was no firing along the IB in the Jammu and Samba districts, said reports, adding that for the first time in more than a week, no casualty was reported from anywhere.

A senior BSF official said that the firing on Thursday night was less intense than those on previous nights.

Sources said the situation along the LoC in the Poonch district has also remained calm over the past 48 hours, with no reports of firing since Wednesday night.

The armed forces had received a clear political signal with everybody in the government making it clear that India must respond to the Pakistani provocations in equal measure. “The government did not hesitate to cancel the talks between foreign secretaries when Pakistan officials met the separatist leaders. The instructions to the troops were clear and consistent,” said a source.

While ceasefire violations are regular along the 740 km long LoC since 2003, those incidents are often ignored by the political parties, public and the media, as it happened in the poorly inhabited jungles and mountains.

But firings from across the border in the plains of Jammu has an entirely different dynamics due to the human element. “If the government wanted to send across a message, IB is the right place for the response,” said an officer.

The 198 km IB in Jammu did not witness much action in the past except that the area was used as an entry point by Pakistani suicide attackers who had to cross only farm lands to hit a highway.

But the area saw intense cross border firing for the second time in three months. Only last month the armed forces guarding India’s border with Pakistan decided not to fire on civilian establishments to de-escalate tension on the western front.

The two forces agreed to restrict the firings only at the border posts guarded by the uniformed men. Within a month, those rules were overturned.

The shelling could also be linked to sneaking of terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir before the snow fall. “Only three weeks of window period is left,” said an army officer. The number of infiltrators drops to single digit in November with the first snow. For instance, the number of infiltrators was five in 2013, three in 2012 and none in 2011 and 2010.

For the entire year, the number of infiltrators was 97 (2013), 121 (2012), 52 (2011) and 95 (2010) respectively.

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