‘Pakistan Army is the guide, mentor and monitor of militants’
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Why are Line of Control (LoC) incursions taking place so frequently of late? Does our own border management protocol needs to change?

There is no normalcy around the LoC. When Pakistan is hell-bent on creating problems in Jammu and Kashmir, there can be no stability. While the perception is that the incursions on the LoC have increased, the reality is that they never ceased. The Pakistanis plan these incursions methodically.

There are 30 to 40 terrorist bases across the LoC in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) from where extremist fighters of different tanzeems (organisations) infiltrate with the backing of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

We have tried many methods to check this and a successful one was the LoC fence to stop infiltration. The border management protocol does not need any change. It is the Pakistanis who have to be leveraged to stop this terrorism. The Pakistan Army does not want to change.

When a Pakistan Army border action team acts against an Indian patrol on the Indian side, shouldn’t India respond instantly in that sector or in a neighbouring sector with a design to inflict heavy casualty so that there is a deterrence factor in reality? Is there a political impediment here?

To retaliate in the same sector would be militarily stupid. That’s the difference between an Army and a mob. The Indian Army ought to retaliate in a time and manner of its choosing. When retaliation takes place from our side, Pakistan does not publicise it. At a tactical level, no commander worth his salt will ask for political clearance at every stage. But there is a political impediment in not having a strategic culture especially when no armed forces inputs are sought when national policy is made. Shouting in Parliament is not political support.

Does the pattern of our training, and the ready availability and use of weapons at the LoC, need to be different in order to be more effective?

Modernisation of the armed forces is needed. More funds are needed. There should be more electronic surveillance. When there is to be acquisition of weaponry and equipment from abroad, there is such rigmarole that ultimately we don’t get the equipment.

There should be a time-frame for acquisitions. The pattern of training can’t be better. The Indian Army is a most disciplined force. But one trend is that some of these incidents have happened during “turnovers” when one battalion replaces another on the LoC. This is the most vulnerable time. The new boys (freshly-deployed soldiers) need some time to be familiar with the geographical features of an area.

The Chinese are in PoK. Has there been any sign of late that in facilitating infiltration in Kashmir they are aiding and abetting the Pakistanis?

No, the Chinese are more sensible than the Pakistanis. They would much rather give the Pakistanis nuclear and missile technology. The Chinese will not be involved in tactical matters in PoK. But there are strategic implications arising from their presence. There are tunnels coming up in PoK. Even if there are only Chinese Army engineers in PoK, they are Armymen.

Are incidents such as the beheading of our soldiers in the Mendhar sector in January and the recent killing in the Poonch sector possible without clearance from senior levels of the Pakistan Army?

Such incidents are not possible without clearance from the Pakistan Army. There is congruence between the jihadis (militants) and the Pakistan Army. The Army uses the jihadis effectively as force-multipliers. In the case of the latest attack, it is impossible for 20 people to cross the LoC from PoK, and pass through Pakistani Army pickets without the knowledge of the Pakistan Army.

The operation was obviously well-planned and there are reports that for 13 days prior to the attack, civilians had been barred in PoK from the vicinity of that area. For the past 13 days, they had been watching the area. They carried out the attack and exfiltrated successfully. The Pakistan Army is the guide, mentor and monitor of the militants.

Do you see jihadis and regular Army personnel conducting assaults against us together, and is this becoming a pattern?

Was there ever a doubt about this? Earlier, only militants would infiltrate into India and attack our soldiers with the full backing of the Pakistan Army.

But now Pakistani border action team commandos are themselves coming in and carrying out attacks. This is a dangerous new element.

It is not a case of someone dressing in Pakistan Army uniform. It is Pakistan Armymen that sometimes dress as militants, but militants never put on Pakistan Army uniform. The Pakistan Army appears to be sending a message to their civilian establishment that you can’t conduct a peace process without the Pakistan Army’s support.

What does this indicate? A design by Pakistan to keep the LoC unsettled in spite of the commitment made to India to maintain ceasefire and not allow Pakistan territory to be used by terrorists to attack India?

This design by Pakistan is nothing surprising. We are prepared for it. But a continued showing of patience reflects a weakness on our part. Our verbal signals have become just hot air. There has got to be anger shown. We cannot be fiddled with. There is a strain on our troops but they are showing tremendous fortitude. Even Western Armies are amazed at how the Indian Army is facing the situation.

Published in The Asian Age 11th August 2013

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