The India-Pakistan ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) since 2003 was yet again violated and brutally this time on January 8, 2013, when Pakistan army troops of reportedly 29 Baloch Regiment, taking advantage of the dense fog, killed two Indian soldiers — Sudhakar Singh and Hemraj of 13 Rajputana Rifles — by slitting their throats and beheading one of them, while firing unprovoked on Indian posts in the Poonch/ Krishna Ghati sector. There have been yet unconfirmed reports that Pakistanis took away the head of one of the decapitated Indian soldiers.
Pakistan army’s attack came soon after India is reported to have told Pakistan “to ensure that the sanctity of LoC is upheld at all times.” In response, Pakistan Army “rejected allegations of the Indian army about the unprovoked firing by Pakistani troops at the Line of Control,” and on January 8, Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visiting Sialkot asked the army to remain “fully prepared to respond to the full spectrum of threats, direct or indirect, overt or covert.” Ever since the 1999 Kargil war waged by Pak army, the only attacks on it have been by the very terrorist outfits it raised, supported or befriended like Al-Qaeda. Mumbai terror attack mastermind and Lashkare- Toiba founder Hafiz Saeed, very close to Pakistan’s military establishment had visited the border areas in Pakistan — occupied Kashmir (PoK) a few days before the killing of two Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops.
Is it not strange that such a macabre act by Pakistan army comes at a time when peace talks are have been progressing, trade is supposed to take off and cricket is being played between the two countries? But both the ceasefire violation and the brutality by misuse of bayonets is neither surprising nor unprecedented. And neither is the timing of Pakistan army initiating some or the other kind of ghastly act to derail the peace process achieved between the two countries after some panistaking measures. Given these recent events and General Kayani’s reluctance to retire as well as the army losing face and coming under increased political scrutiny following Osama bin Laden’s killing by American special forces are all indicators of this heinous attack being a planned one. Denial, lies by Pakistan’s political and military leaders is nothing new.
On June 9, 1999 the mutilated body of Captain Saurabh Kalia taken prisoner during the Kargil War between India and Pakistan was returned to India. Twelve years later in December 2012, his father, Dr NK Kalia, 64, a retired senior scientist from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research took the government to court. He wants his son’s case to be raised at the International Court of Justice at Hague. Unprofessional brutality by Pakistani army soldiers is not unusual at all as it has been resorted to in both the 1965 and 1971 India-Pakistan wars as well as by terrorists of outfits raised and supported by Pakistan army over the past two and a half decades.
India’s Ministry of Defence issued a strong statement criticising this Poonch ceasefire violation and condemning the killing of the two Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops, stated, “The government of India considers the incident as a provocative action and we condemn it. The DGMOs (Director General of Military Operations) of the two countries are in touch over it. The government will take up the incident with the Pakistan government. We expect Islamabad to honour the ceasefire agreement strictly.” Reportedly referring to the incident as an ‘unwholesome development’, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said that the government will make it clear to Pakistan that the action of its troops was absolutely unacceptable and it needed answers. “It is not something of light nature, public opinion does not accept it. We want proportionate response… will take a collective view in the government. The Government of India considers the incident as a provocative action and we condemn it.” Khurshid told a news channel and added that it seemed a ploy to derail peace talks. Political parties in India also strongly condemned the ceasefire violation and the killing of two Indian soldiers, saying the incident will have an impact on bilateral ties.
While it remains to be seen what actions the government will take, the Northern Army Commander, Lt. Gen. KT Parnaik, who visited the spot is reported to have instructed the army to “stay alert and calm” and declared that “appropriate action will be taken at the appropriate time”. Following the 2003 ceasefire agreement, Indian Army erected a three-tier fence about 500 metres to two kilometres inside Indian territory along the LoC to prevent intrusion by Pakistani terrorists. However this cease fire has been violated by Pakistan army umpteen times, mostly while attempting to induct terrorists. In June 2012, Pakistan army violated the ceasefire by unprovoked firing four times from June 11 to June 16, in the same Krishna Ghati sector, killing at least two and injuring some more. That time Pakistani troops directly fired on Indian Army troops guarding the LoC in Poonch unlike in the past when they used to target the posts. In spite of this provocative act, the Indian Army exercised restraint and asked the Pakistani Army, through the hotline channel, to investigate the matter. Pakistan army instead of responding to the Indian message, repeated the sniping on June 13, and killed a soldier and injured three others in the Krishna Ghati belt of the Poonch sector. The flag meeting scheduled to be held at Chakan-Da-Bagh on June 16 was cancelled by Pakistan, without giving any fresh date for the same. The trade via the Chakan-Da-Bagh crossing point remained suspended, awaiting de-escalation of the situation in the Krishna Ghati Sector. The tally of ceasefire violations by June 2012 went up to 12.
On July 26, 2012, a 400-metres long tunnel, running between India and Pakistan, along the International Border in Samba district of J&K — the second so far— was discovered. The tunnel replete with ventilator pipes was reportedly detected by a local villager Baldev Singh while he was digging in his fields and the ground caved-in at two or three places after rains near the BSF’s Chillayari Border Outpost (BOP). Following the cave-in, when the area was dug out to know the reason, authorities were surprised to find a tunnel of dimension 3×3 ft, running between Chillayari BOP and Pakistan’s Numberiyal BOP, at a depth of 25-ft below the ground level and air supply through a 2-inch pipe.
Interacting with this writer then, Lt Gen Parnaik had said, “Several infiltration attempts by militants to enter into Jammu and Kashmir in the last six months have been foiled by our troops. We have information about terrorists being trained in Pakistan with instructions to infiltrate into J&K.” Lt Gen Om Prakash, who took over charge as GOC of the Srinagar headquartered Chinar Corps from Lt Gen Syed Atta Hasnain on June 9, 2012, reportedly gave an update of as many as 42 terrorist camps still being operational in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), where 2,000 and 2,500 terrorists are trained for anti-India activities, with upto 1,400 terrorists waiting to get into India. In early May 2012, Army foiled a major infiltration bid in the Kashmir Valley by killing six militants in Uri sector of Baramulla district. Later in May, Indian Army troops foiled another infiltration bid by militants in Keran sector in the Kashmir Valley. Lt Gen Hasnain had stated then that the fencing along the Line of Control (LoC), which was damaged due to heavy snowfall last winter, had been repaired to a large extent and that militants might try to infiltrate in the month of June. Whether any infiltration attempts have succeeded or not, the burnings of the Quran and shrines certainly began in June, which meant that at least Pakistan’s handlers were active from across the LoC and in the Valley.
IN EARLY MAY 2012, ARMY FOILED A MAJOR INFILTRATION BID IN THE KASHMIR VALLEY BY KILLING SIX MILITANTS IN URI SECTOR OF BARAMULLA DISTRICT. LATER IN MAY, INDIAN ARMY TROOPS FOILED ANOTHER INFILTRATION BID BY MILITANTS IN KERAN SECTOR IN THE KASHMIR VALLEY
While Pakistan seems to be keen in promoting ties with India through the process of dialogue, cultural and sports events aimed at reducing trust deficit, Islamabad’s agencies, including the Army and the ISI continue to sustain conflict and aid to militants. This is one of the reasons for India to take measured steps while engaging Pakistan in the process of dialogue. That Pakistan has remained engaged in upgrading war machinery and its defence prepardness is evident from a 2012 report of India’s Ministry of Defence which revealed that since 2004, despite the border ceasefire, Pakistani troops have constructed 886 bunkers, 261 morchas, 398 towers and 143 border outposts along the LoC and the International boundary.
Irked by two successive tourist seasons in the Kashmir Valley and difficulty in infiltration across the LoC, Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence has been goading separatist leaders in the state to incite secessionist activities similar to the stone-pelting and civil disobedience movement of 2010 that had brought normal life in the Valley to a crippling halt. New Delhi must respond appropriately and assertively both on ground and diplomatically as well as determinedly move the International Court of Justice on all brutalities by Pak army. — The author is the editor of Word Sword Features