A day after the Army conducted “surgical strikes” on terror launch pads along the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), the Union Home Ministry issued a nationwide advisory to “maintain high levels of vigil to thwart any attempts by terrorists to strike back”. The government is also learnt to have told the BSF to use “full force” to defend the border in case of ceasefire violations by Pakistan.
“While the next 10-15 days will be particularly crucial, the highest level of alertness will be necessary until the end of October. This is a particularly sensitive time as the festival season is approaching. Border states such as J&K, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab, as well as the metros, have been cautioned through an advisory. Coastal security measures have been stepped up, too,” said a senior Intelligence Bureau official.
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This time, the major concern is the possibility of retaliatory attacks by terrorists who had infiltrated into Indian territory earlier, said the official. “As per our assessments, around 85-90 terrorists have infiltrated this year. This is our biggest threat at the moment,” said the official.
On Friday, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the security situation during an hour-long meeting with senior officials, including National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, during which he was briefed about measures taken to foil any attempts from Pakistan to target BSF posts or civilians in forward areas.
Singh instructed officials to ensure that the highest level of alert is maintained to foil any such bid. In a separate meeting, he also reviewed issues relating to the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) deployed along the India-China border.
The BSF, meanwhile, has already put its units on high alert, and has been instructed to assist the local administration in evacuating civilians from villages along the LoC, said officials. Two more battalions have been rushed to the Jammu border in addition to around 15 battalions on the 190-km stretch, they said.
“Forces have been asked to be prepared but wait and watch. We will not be the aggressor. But if Pakistan indulges in unprovoked firing at the border, the BSF will reply in the manner that it did in 2014,” said a Home Ministry official.
The official was referring to the unprecedented escalation of tension months after the NDA government came to power, which saw 12-hour gunbattles for days between BSF and Pakistan Rangers. While 11 people were killed in Pakistani shelling at the time, Indian forces had claimed to have killed 50 people across the border.
“Although there is no specific intelligence on cross-border infiltration in the past two days or any impending signs of ceasefire violations, we are fully prepared,” said a senior BSF officer.
On Thursday, India had carried out “surgical strikes” on seven terror launch pads across the LoC with the Army inflicting “significant casualties” on terrorists preparing to infiltrate from PoK, marking a clear departure from its response to cross-border terrorism in the past. The strikes were conducted 10 days after the terrorist attack on an Army camp in Uri that left 18 soldiers dead.
During the meeting on ITBP, the Home Minister was briefed on the force’s strength at the border outposts, construction and upgradation of helipads and additional air courier services, apart from issues related to housing, health and education facilities.
Director General, ITBP, D K Chaudhary made a presentation and informed the Home Minister that cadre management and other issues of the force could be further improved. Singh asked the Home Ministry to extend assistance to the ITBP for the welfare of jawans and their families, and provide them training and better equipment.