Five civilians killed, two injured on LoC as Pakistan ups the ante - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 18 March 2018

Five civilians killed, two injured on LoC as Pakistan ups the ante

11-year-old Nasreen Kouser is flown to hospital by the army after being seriously injured by Pakistani firing on Sunday

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 19th March 18

In an increasingly hostile atmosphere of tit-for-tat firing across the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan, five Indian civilians were killed and two injured – all members of the same family – on Sunday morning near Poonch, Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).

Such tragedies are not unprecedented in villages near the LoC. On February 7, the defence minister told Parliament that, in each of the last three years, Pakistani firing had killed 12-16 Indian villagers and wounded 71-83. That casualty number has been surpassed already this year.

Rising heat in J&K

Year-wise occurrence

Ceasefire violations (CFVs)
351 (Till 12th Feb)
Terrorist Initiated Incidents (TIIs)
7   (Till 29th Jan)
Infiltration Bids Eliminated (IBE)
3  (Till 29th Jan)
(Source: answers to Parliamentary questions)

Neither India nor Pakistan have yet repudiated the unsigned ceasefire that came into effect in November 2003. It has survived even cross-LoC raids that resulted in the killing and savage mutilation of the bodies of enemy soldiers. Not even India’s “surgical strikes” on Pakistani terrorist camps in September 2016 caused either side to officially call off the ceasefire.

But now, with both sides targeting each other’s posts – and occasionally, as today, even civilians – with heavy machine guns, automatic grenade launchers, guided missiles, heavy mortars and even medium artillery, there sense is growing that the ceasefire is dead, even if not buried.

The first indication came on January 12, when Indian Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, implied the ceasefire had ended: “If we see a drop in infiltration [by terrorists] along the LoC, we are willing to call for a ceasefire. But not until we see a drop in infiltration levels.”

Abandoning the longstanding convention of blaming the other side for instigating firing, Rawat bluntly stated: “Ceasefire violations are initiated by us in counter-terrorist operations. These are when we target Pakistani posts that are involved in infiltrating terrorists [across the LoC].

Rawat elaborated: “Earlier, we were targeting (firing at) only the infiltrating militants. But these extremists are disposable commodities for Pakistan. Instead, the pain has to be felt by the Pakistan armed forces for supporting infiltration. So we have started targeting his posts and I can assure you that, in these exchanges of fire, he has suffered 3-4 times the casualties. That is why we get repeated requests from Pakistan to take the ceasefire back to 2003 levels.”

On Tuesday, in New Delhi, Rawat returned to this theme. “Earlier, the burden was only on us to man the border and remain alert, and now the Pakistan Army is feeling the same pain. They also have to remain alert on the border”, he said.

Even so, Rawat accepted that Indian pressure had not yet induced the Pakistan Army to reduce infiltration, and might have to be stepped up. “If we want to raise the threshold [of firing], we can… We don’t want a ceasefire on their terms. We want it on our terms”, said Rawat.

However, as even serving generals have pointed out, there is a limit to how much India can escalate without triggering war. The western army commander, Lieutenant General Surinder Singh, stated in Chandigarh earlier this month: “You can only push them (Pakistan) conventionally to a limit and not beyond that. And no nuclear nation can be browbeaten beyond a particular stage.”

New Delhi’s sensitivity to escalation was illustrated in September 2016, when an Indian general, while announcing the “surgical strikes” on terrorist camps explicitly underscored its limited objectives, stating: “The operations aimed at neutralising terrorists have since ceased. We do not have any plans for further continuation.”

It is now clear that the “surgical strikes” have not deterred Pakistani aggression. Figures tabled by the government in Parliament reveal that Pakistan violated the ceasefire 228 times in 2016, up from 152 times in 2015. After the “surgical strikes”, that went up fourfold in 2017 to 860 violations. In the first 43 days of 2018, Pakistan opened fire 351 times, averaging more than eight incidents daily.

Pakistan might well be paying a heavier cost, as General Rawat has stated. Yet India’s escalation strategy is incurring a significant cost in soldiers’ lives. This was evident on December 23, when a major and three jawans were gunned down on the LoC near Rajauri, Jammu & Kashmir.

Army sources say that 21 Indian soldiers and 12 civilians were killed in border firing last year. Without an early ceasefire, the cost will almost certainly be higher this year.

The big losers from escalated firing are residents of villages near the LoC. Rawat alluded to this when he said in January: “[Army] bunkers are always bulletproof, and can even take the impact of artillery shells, [but] we have a problem of civilian bunkers. I’ve ordered that we will make bunkers, or trenches or pits for schoolchildren.”

From the LoC to the Kashmir Valley hinterland, the last two years have also seen a significant rise in militant activities, reflected in the casualties incurred by the security forces, civilians and also militants. Without de-escalation, 2018 is on track to be the bloodiest year of the decade.

Casualties in J&K from militancy*

Security Forces**
Terrorists killed

*   In terrorist initiated incidents (TII) and infiltration bids eliminated (IBE)
** Including military, Border Security Force and J&K Police

(Source: answers to Parliamentary questions)


  1. Armchairstrategist18 March 2018 at 23:36

    The Army chief is right.We have to prepare for the long haul.There can be no ceasefire until infiltration stops.

  2. We cannot fight with only shields. Pakistan has created more than enough damage , why should it encourage terrorist operation ?
    None of you even talk of Mass migration of Hindus from Kashmir valley.
    We need to hit them harder.

  3. NSR says ---

    Pakistan became accustomed to no response or lethargic responses during two UPA governments...
    It continued with unbridled infiltration and terrorism...

    Now with the new NDA government counter responses, Pakistan is feeling the heat of counter responses...

    Key to peace is unequivocal actions by Pakistan to stop 100% of infiltration and terrorism...
    Only then it will lead to a new Ceasefire, albeit a dependable peace for both countries...

    As long as Pakistani Army is wedded to Jihad, there will be no Peace...

    On the otherhand, I believe that from Kailash Manasarovar to Kanyakumari is all India...including our Muslim brothers and sisters who believes in this concept...

  4. Let Pakistan take a decision to escalate/retaliate/hyperventilate/renegotiate...

    If they choose to escalate "conventionally" which is the only externally oriented option available to them,

    1. since the terrorism option has been excersized to its max capacity and overall has not been able to bring India to the negotiation table for Kashmir or other freebies.

    2. they are diplomatically bankrupt and the nuclear option is not really an option for first use.

    If they choose conventional military escalation, they know that the majority Indian public is sick and tired of Pakistan and will fully support an escalated Indian military retaliation. Furthermore,The government in power is also a Right Wing govt with a strong majority in parliament.

    Conventional forces is our strength and their weakness.

    The other alternative for them is to look internally and dismantle or more realistically diminish/delay the terror apparatus and operations against us.

    Bottomline is, India has begged for peace, compromised for peace, but we have only received violence in return along with insult.

    Now we will sue for war and let them compromise for peace. Let them take a step back.

    In this way, we get what we want.Either an excuse to escalate militarily. Or to live peacefuly with a peaceful Pakistan.

    The ball is in Pak Army, GHQs court. :)

  5. Off Topic:

    Dear Editor, I heard that the Army has taken the initial steps towards a "Cadre review", which happened last, in the 1980s. Some 30 years ago.

    It would be nice if you could write a peice on it, as many of us younger lot dont know what it is and what happened in the last Cadre Review. Since most of us millenials were in our nappies back then. :D


  6. Well we have all read this excellent article, now there is nothing to do Chaps but pull your fingers out and get your skates on! Start digging!
    The Indian Army is too high brow to start picking up the environmental mess they have created on the Glacier. 'Not there to pick up rubbish!' one of the retired Generals wrote.
    Well now is your chance get busy! start digging bunkers and built fortifications. Tunnel deep into the hillsides - and for God sake get the ammunition position sorted out you are going to need plenty for it.
    Soldiers must be worked hard. The Roman legion at the end of a 40 mile days march, at each overnight location, would dig a huge ditch and build a new fortified camp, over and over again.
    The French would have built an entire maginot line. Our senior officers have been idle, after many years at the border their accommodation and positions are still very basic.
    Never fear any artillery barrage if well dug in. In WW1 Germans survived comfortably in bunkers, the artillery fire from tens of thousands of enemy Guns.
    The Indian Generals know this! Perhaps they are waiting for a private civilian contractors to bring mazdoors to build proper bunkers for 'our boys'.
    An inquiry should be held each time an Indian soldiers is killed at the border by an artillery shell,
    some seniorofficer may have been incompetent, we are taking to many casualties from some piddley shells from Pakistan.


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