After a decade of calm, army gears up for active border - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 9 October 2014

After a decade of calm, army gears up for active border

"Our forces will make the cost of this adventurism unaffordable," said Jaitley on Thursday"

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 10th Oct 14

After almost a decade of relative peace on the Line of Control (LoC) --- the mountainous, 776-kilometre-long, de facto border between Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and the rest of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) that remains with India --- early-2013 saw a resumption of firing and aggressive patrolling of the LoC from both sides. Sporadic flare-ups since then have been mostly controlled without significant casualties.

This week, however, has seen firing spread from the LoC to the plains sector of Jammu, along the border between J&K and Pakistani Punjab. Media reports are erroneously calling this the “international boundary” or IB.

In fact, the IB --- promulgated by Sir Cyril Radcliffe on August 17, 1947, and accepted by both India and Pakistan --- runs between the Indian states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab, and the Pakistani provinces of Sindh and Punjab. Since the 1971 war, India and Pakistan have never exchanged fire across the IB.

The on-going firing involves Indian posts and villages in J&K, which begins near Pathankote and runs north for 200 kilometres to Akhnur, where the LoC begins. Pakistan calls this the “working boundary”, since it is contested like the rest of J&K. By firing here, Pakistan demonstrates that it remains unsettled.

On Thursday, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said, “The International Border has never been an issue at all and most of these violations are occurring at the IB.” In fact, for Pakistan, the “working boundary” is a part of the J&K dispute.

Targeting civilians in the plains sector, at villages like Arnia, gives Pakistan a softer option than tangling with India on the LoC, where Indian military posts are well fortified; and even mortars and machine guns cause only limited damage. Rather than facing robust Indian Army retaliation on the LoC, Pakistan is targeting the BSF, and villages along the “working boundary”.

Since Wednesday, firing has died down along the LoC, but continues along the so-called “working boundary”, where both sides have reported civilians killed. Each side has evacuated some 20,000 border villagers to safety away from the border.

This is not unprecedented. Prior to the LoC ceasefire of November 2003, both sides would target border villages, causing casualties to civilians. Border villages take survival cues from the military, often building underground bunkers next to their homes, into which they scurry when firing starts. Even so, civilians sometimes get caught in the open when enemy guns first open fire.

Senior Indian commanders assess that the Pakistan Army is activating the border to rally support at a time when nationalist and Islamist groups are protesting the army’s attack on North Waziristan, accusing it of acting at America’s behest. Pakistan’s military is also taking flak for recent drone strikes on militant targets.

“Pakistani generals want a mildly activated border to keep alive the India bogey. Strong army chiefs like (General Pervez) Musharraf and (General Ashfaq) Kayani did not need to whip up the India bogey. But the current chief, General Raheel Sharif, needs to play the India card. I think we will have to live with a more active border,” predicts a top Indian general.

Furthermore, India’s suspension of the dialogue process has reduced Pakistan’s incentive to keep the peace. When the dialogue process was under way, even if sporadically, ceasefire violations incurred a cost--- firing on the border disrupted the dialogue. With dialogue suspended, there is no diplomatic cost to ceasefire violations.

New Delhi, therefore, must now rely on imposing a military cost, through strong retaliation against Pakistani posts and villages. With Indian posts on the LoC better constructed and more heavily armed than Pakistan’s, an escalation of firing imposes disproportionate costs on the Pakistan Army. The BSF too has been instructed to retaliate strongly. New Delhi’s decision not to call for a flag meeting underlines its conviction that the military cost will soon become too high for Pakistan.

Top operational commanders from both sides --- the directors general of military operations, or DsGMO --- spoke briefly on the telephone earlier this week. Each side accused the other of violating the ceasefire. However, neither side requested for a flag meeting, where de-escalation is normally initiated.

"Pakistan, in these attacks, has clearly been the aggressor… If Pakistan persists with this adventurism, our forces will make the cost of this adventurism unaffordable," said Jaitley on Thursday.

It has been speculated that Pakistan has stepping up cross-border firing to infiltrate militants into J&K before the winter snows block the passes from POK. In fact, the infiltration routes around Poonch, Rajauri and Naushera --- in the lower-lying Jammu Sector --- remain open around the year.

Nor is it likely that Pakistan has activated the border to disrupt India’s counter-infiltration grid. The Indian Army prefers an operating environment where fire can be opened quickly on suspected infiltration. The ceasefire restrains India’s posts as much as Pakistan’s. If there is no de-escalation soon, infiltrating militants will face a more hostile reception at the LoC than they have since the ceasefire of November 2003. 


  1. Thank you for clarifying that an active border disrupts India's counter-infiltration grid. It appears that many peaceniks in the media would carry the water for Pakistan, regardless of strategic and long term costs to India.

  2. Thanks for explaining what it means when we read, "ceasefire violation by Pakistan". Rgds

  3. Laton Ke Bhoot Baton Se Nahi Mante hain. Glad that we have strong govt. in India this time.

  4. Excellent Article!!! One needs to be powerful to ensure peace.. India is doing just that

  5. Colonel,

    Again being an apologist for his Pakistani Friends. Redcliff is a history and many accords / agreements exist between the two country that clearly lays down the boundaries between the two countries- call it cease fire line. LOC, working boundaries or whatever. That so called "working boundry " has a recognition and status of its own as recognized so vide Suchetgarh agreement and Shimala agreement. Tell me what the agreements between the two countries tell about that so called "working boundary" ? It is a boundary all right till it remains under Indian control.
    If it was not, pray tell me why Indian forces withdrew from across this line in 1965 and 1971.

    From Indian perspective we claim the entire boundary of J&K state including that lies beyond Gilgit and Northern areas as the Indian boundary. There is nothing called "Working Boundary" from Indian point of view as that boundary is well recognized by both the states and internationally.

    You are justifying Pakistani side firing across this line simply because it happened to the boundary between erstwhile Punjab and state of J&K. From Indian perspective, we have a boundary and LOC in the state of J&K with Pakistan. That is a boundary as both sides did not kept the areas their under their control post the two wars. Is not that good enough for you as the historical fact and evidence that you wish to dispute it today to support Pakistani view ?

    Some people never improve ..

  6. @ Anonymous 13:52

    If you have to try and appear educated, first learn to spell. It is Radcliffe, not Redcliff.

    Secondly, go back and read the article again. I am not "justifying Pakistani firing" (or frequently our own firing) across the "Working Boundary". All I am doing is informing the readers about this fine distinction since many are not aware of this.

    You don't HAVE to post. It's okay to come to my blog (as you clear do), read my articles (as you clearly do), try and understand them (as you clearly do NOT) and then buzz off without posting something that displays your ignorance.

    Also, if you have an identity, use it. People who criticising as Anonymous posters are seldom taken seriously.

  7. Ajayji,

    Could you please share your insights on the Neelam Valley incident or point me to a page other than wiki which details what had happened.


  8. Modi was made to look weak over recent Chinese incursions. Hence he needs to take tougher line on pakistan.

  9. @Broadsword ! 13:52

    Bull-shitting is the last resort of ?????

    I do come to your blog and that is my choice, damn it. you should encourage that. Most of the time I comment to put you and your readers correct on "matters military" which you seem to be trying to learn now. I do not need permission for that. putting my comment on your blogs, though is your prerogative. However, I do need permission to post with my name and not that I am scared of you.

    How many times have I told you not to bullshit the commentators and prove that you were educated in an elite English school followed by elite DE educating NDA. I do think that is a big deal. I for one was educated in a very reputed university.

    Correcting spelling at best is the job of a Babu...and comments is hardly an item for proof reading. what I attempted was correcting you on facts and exposing your naïve attempt to justify that firing across "working boundary" is permitted.. !! and it is not diplomatic violation - the stand which is ridiculously taken by Pakistan to keep the dispute alive.. or enlarge the scope of the dispute.

    So far this so called IB or working boundary has been held inviolable by both the sides even during or after the wars and is
    non negotiable. you will know how sensitive is this area is for both the sides and Pakistan's attempt to flare it up is nothing short of inciting a war. That is what I wished you informed your readers rather than being a Pakistani apologist contemplating a Biryani night in Lahore in near future.. and then informing your readers like me how tasty the Biryani was.

    I shall be on and keep troubling you by my comments for the benefit of your readers..

    Best regards...

  10. will the bjp govt provide combat uniforms , shoes , helmets bpjs , modern multicalibre rifles , antimaterial and sniper rifles with day and night scopes , nvjs 3rd gen, uavs like american , french , german armies or willlike the chor congress let the solder rot with poor tin helmets , substandard bpjs , world war two lmgs , outdated rifles , poor clothing , shoes and 2nd gen scopes and nvjs . THE INDIAN ARMY COMPARED TO THE 3500 CRORES NAVYS SHIPS OR AIRFORCE 1000CRORES RAEFLES IS HOPELESSSLY EQUIPPED ENDANGERING LIVES OF OFFICERS AND JAWANS , BECAUSE ONLY THE POOREST OF THE POOR TODATYJOIN THE FORCES , NOT THE SONS OF POLITCANS , BABUS , IFS OR IPS OR CORRUPT BUSINESSMEN. THE GENERALS ARE EQUALLY TO BLAME FOR FOR THE POOR MATERIAL STATE AND THEIR RESPONSIBILTY AND ACCOUNTABILTY NEEDS TO BE FIXED ALONG WITH THE BABUS AND MINISTERS .

  11. rpresTimmy Said :

    Your sword is quite broad so far as your disinformation and writing style is concerned. Your broadness misses details for your absurdity and your overpowering prejudices.
    Take only a few disinformation and prejudiced assertions-
    • Boundary between Pathankot and Akhnur, 200 Km, is disputed ?? No Sir, the status of J& K may be disputed for India and Pakistan but not that particular boundary which is a byproduct of Redcliffe award who designated which all districts of erstwhile Punjab will be part of Pakistan even if those happened to lie acroos J&K. Or for that matter the LOC – is also not disputed. Both sides have agreed many times to respect these lines as borders till final solution of the status of J&K.
    • If there is referendum in J&K and they decide to remain in India , do you mean the areas across so called “ working Boundary” in Pakistan will also be contested?

    • The stretch that is undefined is area north / ahead of NJ 9842.

    • Oh ! What will and who will decide the final status of J&K ? The Paki Army or Pakistan? You must be a nut to suggest that and justify firing by Pakistanis across the so called “Working Boundary” towards that objective. In that we are back to 1947. You and your Pakistani friends would never want that !

    • If areas you are claiming to be disputed and thereby having no boundary ( but working boundary as you claim) India would mount operations and take the entire areas of that portion of Punjab which falls opposite working boundary. But who would tell you that those ares under Pakistani possession are part of Radcliffe award between India and Pakistan and not necessarily between J&K and Pakistan!! By implication, therefore, JAKLI is free to mount operations there since J&K was not part of that award.

    • Look, the boundary of divided Punjab on Indian side stops at somewhere near Pathankot but boundary of divided Punjab of Radcliffe on Pakistan side stops somewhere opposite Akhnur. Hence, so far Radcliffe was concerned that was IB. That is the reason areas ahead of that is LOC and ares south of that is IB.

    • So does “Working boundary” makes the status of Pakistani Punjab also questionable ? As per you yes. If yes, Indian forces should mount operation across and claim it to be Indian territory ! Your Pakistani friends will kick your aft.
    • In view of the above, your sarcastic remarks at Arun Jaitly’s statement is laughable.
    It is because of the Colonels like you that Indian Army officers are not taken seriously but as laughing stocks.

  12. Excellent article Ajai. I don't know how long you were posted in Kashmir, but any predictions on future Pakistani behavior based on your experience or even from what you are hearing?

    As an aside, I know the comment was insulting, but do I detect you indulging in a bit of own "chutzpah." Internet and anonymity go hand in hand...don't you think so?

  13. No one knows the inside stories of who started/stopped first, which is as it should be. However, what is clear is that the borders were far better managed by UPA than NDA. UPA gave us a big victory in 71 and thereafter kept it quite incident free. NDA allowed Kargil to happen (no one punished except a mere Brigadier - I thought the RM, Def Secy, and Army Chief would be sacked after war), and now this! Seems quite beyond BJP. Why do elections come so often, creating a need to appear 'macho'?

  14. Even though India responded forcefully, the firing has not stopped completely. The calibrated escalation seems as the main option but how far it can go? Is there any solid solution to this frequent problem?

    For example, is it possible to burn Sialkot with 155mm if Arnia comes under small arms and mortar fire repeatedly? There are many cities on the IB and LoC in Pakistan. If India proceeds with burning each of them, sector wise, if it is fired upon, will Pakistan rethink?

    Think about it, even Rawalpindi is within the VLAP/Smerch range. A grid wise shower of VLAP may neutralise Rawalpindi completely and drive the point home realistically.

    Will the next stage response be creative?

  15. @ Broadsword 7.11

    Don't get your knickers in a twist. It is the reader's prerogative to comment if he so wishes and you should be the last one to set guidelines for this as long as it is not abusive, which it was clearly not. And as for him being uneducated, how did you arrive at this conclusion? Because of a typo? C'mon have a heart. That way, I could do a Freudian analysis of you based on your article and comment and arrive at the fact that you weren't good enough for the army having never made it past colonel and obviously not too good a journalist considering you were turfed out of mainstream media. Get what I mean? So lighten up.

    And of course, since I'm posting under a nom de plume you don't need to take me seriously.

  16. Broadsword, excellent article as usual.

    Now that Modi et. al have established what I will call a "Disproportionate Response" to Paki provocation at the border, the next step becomes the crucial one:

    Facilitating the destruction of Pakistan.

    This is the only permanent way to eliminate deaths at the hand of Pakistan, for Pakistan is an irrational state that ****actually teaches its citizens that they've won wars (1947,65,71) they in truth lost***

    Pakistani wars are not simply based on desiring spoils of war, they are genuinely irrational and wars against India will always ***have*** to occur as long as Pakistan exists. Thus they have to be destroyed, and it should be done according to Art of War principles - namely, with as minimal loss of Indian lives as possible.

    Thus, besides Doval increasing intelligence assets within Pakistan, we should be looking at other means to foment civil war within Pakistan, including a relatively easy option of economic COMPETITION. We should be analyzing Pakistan economic data and looking to compete with them directly in industries where they are currently strong. With our superior resources and manpower, we can economically target their valuable industries without any warfare, weakening their economies and increasing the intensity of their multi-angle civil war.

    As for separatist movements, obviously we have to avoid the Islamists, giving *some* focus to Sindhis, Baloch, Mohajirs, perhaps South Punjabis. But it need not be much at all - the perception of assistance is almost just as important, since it will play into PakPunjabi paranoia and make them more vicious against those groups. Thus the main thrust of our intelligence should be better information on possible attacks and Jihadi entry into India, because if we repel them at the border with a "Disproportionate Response", the Jihadis will get frustrated within Pakistan and some of them will turn against the Pakistani state in that particular component of the civil war.

    All my opinion obviously.

  17. @ Anonymous 13:52 and 10:07

    You’re trying to put Broadsword and its visitors correct on matters military? Be advised that I have worn the uniform for 26 years… and that most visitors to this blog (except for the ones who waste their time posting boastful comments) are experts in the field.

    Second, you DO need my permission to post comments on the blog. There is a feature on called “Comment Moderation” which I use to keep out racial abuse and obscenity. So each comment of yours is vetted by me and I give permission for its posting.

    As you can see, I don’t keep out opposing viewpoints. But I’m considering introducing a “Stupidity Bar”.

    You observe: “Correct spelling at best is the job of a Babu”! I’ll leave that to be rebutted by its own stupidity and lack of quality.

    Thirdly, nowhere does my article say that firing across the Working Boundary is “permitted”. That conclusion has come out of your own scrambled head.

    Fourthly, don’t display your ignorance by saying that the Working Boundary has been free of firing. There has been sustained firing across the Working Boundary for decades, whenever Indo-Pak tension rises.

    Do please keep commenting. It makes the other visitors look really good.

  18. @ Unknown

    Sorry, my friend, but I'm not about to "lighten up". Broadsword has a certain status and standard and I expect that of my visitors, just as they expect it of me.

    As for your observation that I wasn't good enough for the army since I never made it past Colonel... your most welcome to soothsay. But that wouldn't be an honest argument because I took premature retirement and was never considered for higher promotion.

    Your argument that I was "turfed out of mainstream media" only indicates your unfamiliarity with the media. Each article on this blog is published first in Business Standard, a newspaper that is widely regarded as a hallmark of media standards.

    You'll have to think up some better arguments.

  19. @ amol

    Anonymous internet nivaasis need to be prepared to get some back, wouldn't you say?

  20. Dear Shuklaji

    The previous Army Chief had said that A Befitting Response has been Given to the Beheading Incident

    Could you tell us what was it

    Secondly If the Man Mohan Singh Govt wanted it could have GIVEN the SAME response in AUGUST LAST year when FIVE Indian soldiers were Killed ; that has been given NOW

    There have been reports that Indian Army's HANDS were tied up by the MMS Govt because of the PEACE process

    Today we are Reading about
    1 Paki Infrastructure damaged
    2 Our Soldiers JUBILIANT with the NEW found freedom to retaliate
    3 Pakis getting rattled AND
    Running to the UN/ US

    So why did not the MMS govt do all
    these things

    Instead it tried its best to APPEASE Pakistan and even give away Siachen

  21. Broadsword @ 8.20

    "... your most welcome to soothsay"

    I'm sure you meant to write "you're most welcome.." and not "your most welcome..." as you actually wrote.
    Frankly, I could not resist being a grammar nazi considering you had that poor "anonymous' on the mat for a typo. Into each life some rain must fall, eh what?

  22. I liked the article, just to see what the indians are thinking. The interesting thing is that people in india are beginning to report truth. Like, it is not always pakistan that starts an event, especially not for the purpose that india claim's it to be, infiltration.

    For infiltration you want a quite front, with routine patrols, relaxed/bored soldiers listening to music and drinking.

    Here is a man that has some understanding of why Pakistan will never ever back down (its in the genes!)

  23. @ Unknown

    I didn't have the Anonymous guy on the mat for a typo. Redcliff wasn't a type, it was ignorance.

    Your observation on my incorrect use of "your" instead of "you're" is gracefully accepted. This was a typo.


  24. @Unknown 23.31

    Your comments reminds me of a famous neo-Freudian cum Transactional analyst by the name of Eric Berne who defined a phenomenon called "Now I have got you, you son of a Bitch" syndrome in his famous book "Games People Play" //Ha Ha Ha ..


    The general and almost final destination for infiltrators , I would say for most of them, is the valley. Even if one infiltrates from Samba or Rajouri to reach valley during winters, the intervening ranges, routes and passes remain closed. So what is the use of remaining stuck in Pir Punjal unless one infiltrates for tasks in Jammu, Rajouri or Kathua region. Which is the key area of decision for proxy war of Pakistan? It is the valley and if one has to reach there this present time happens to be the last time to infiltrate and not November December.

    Keep that in mind next time you propagate infiltration theories - particularly round the year infiltration theories.

    All the best..

  25. @ Anonymous 19:35

    Your comment smacks of a valley-centric approach that is all too common in the army... which has little understanding of the routes into the valley from Jammu.

    There are several routes through the Pir Panjal passes that remain open even in winter. Infiltration from Samba follows routes up through Dhar-Udhampur and thence into the valley.

    Today, you are at a stage where militants are even infiltrating through Nepal and catching the bus up to Srinagar.

    So lift your head up from the border fence in 15 Corps and look around at the larger picture plz.


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