Army will respond to LoC killings at right time, India tells Pakistan


New Delhi: India on Monday pointedly reminded Pakistan of the neighbour’s losses from a “surgical strike” last year as it prepared to respond to a Pakistani attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Bhimber Gali sector of Rajouri district that claimed the lives of four Indian Army soldiers on Sunday.

“The Indian Army will respond when the time is right and it will be a fitting response to Pakistan, just as the surgical strikes were carried out without any prior knowledge of the event,” home minister Rajnath Singh warned after Sunday’s ceasefire violation by Pakistan. The sacrifice of the soldiers would not go in vain, he added.

The Indian Army has named the four soldiers who died in the Pakistani shelling as Captain Kapil Kundu, Havildar Roshan Lal, Rifleman Ramavtar and Rifleman Subham Singh.

Army officers said the neighbouring country would have to bear the consequences of its action along the Line of Control (LoC).

“They will have to face the consequences. We will now step up the pressure on Pakistan and use all direct and indirect methods of firing. While direct methods include taking aim and firing, indirect methods involve artillery fire and mortar shelling which will inflict heavier damage to the Pakistani posts,” said a senior Indian Army officer, requesting anonymity.

The army officer added that Pakistan has stepped up unprovoked firing and shelling in Kashmir since 23 December.

The Indian government’s records show that Pakistan violated the ceasefire 840 times in 2017, and that since the beginning of this year alone, it has been responsible for 160 violations.

Intelligence officials said India was capable of inflicting heavy damage on Pakistan.

“We have the Pinaka multi barrel rocket launcher which is capable of turning one kilometre of territory into ash. We need to step up our vertical escalation methods. Destroying Pakistani posts is not enough and we also need to inflict human damage on Pakistan’s army personnel. Only that will make them sit up and realize the cost of this proxy war. The political top brass just needs to give the order,” said an intelligence official, who did not wish to be named.

Defence experts, however, stated that with India adopting a policy of strategic restraint, not only was infiltration along the border increasing, it was also giving an impetus to Pakistan to increase episodic firing on India—largely as a means of providing cover fire to infiltrating terrorists.

Experts also added that India’s failure to follow up on its September 2016 surgical strike—which Rajnath Singh referred to in his warning—had allowed Pakistan to respond with greater ferocity.

“The government has failed to handle Pakistan effectively. We should not play victim because we have to learn to control infiltration and Pakistan simultaneously. After the surgical strikes, we have activated the LoC and Pakistan showed quid pro quo capability at retaliating. They did not respond to the surgical strikes then, but their BATs (Border Action Teams) have been successful at inflicting heavy damage,” said H.S. Panag, a former Lieutenant General in the Indian Army and a defence expert.

Incidents of ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops have increased sharply over the past few years. According to data provided by the Union home ministry, there were a total of 583 cases of ceasefire violations along the International Border (IB) and the LoC in 2014 , 405 in 2015, 449 in 2017, and 840 in 2017.

A ministry official said on conditions of anonymity that immediate and effective retaliation by the Indian Army and the Border Security Force personnel is carried out during instances of unprovoked fire and ceasefire violations, along with taking up the matter with Pakistan authorities.

Other experts agreed that India needed to significantly increase the costs for Pakistan in order to deter them from engaging along the LoC.

“We have been very restrained so far. We need to significantly increase fire power and raise costs progressively for Pakistan. We don’t do it because we are afraid of inflicting civilian casualties on their side. But if we keep raising costs, it will be a deterrent for them,” said Gurmeet Kanwal, distinguished fellow, at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, a strategic think tank in New Delhi.

Indian deputy high commissioner to Pakistan J.P. Singh met officials of the Pakistan foreign office to protest against the deaths of the Indian Army soldiers.livemint