As the two armies exchange heavy fire on the Line of Control (LoC) in the Naushera sector of J&K, top Army sources said the Pakistan army is displaying signs of nervousness about a trans-LoC response from India to the beheading of two security forces personnel on the Indian side on May 1.
On Saturday, Pakistan army’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) released a statement which said that “any misadventure by Indian Army across Line of Control will be a miscalculation, shall be responded with full force and could lead to unintended consequences”. This followed Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s visit to Line of Control in Nikial sector, which has witnessed heavy exchange of fire by both sides over the past two weeks.
Top Army sources in Jammu and Kashmir told The Indian Express that radio intercepts and intelligence inputs from the Pakistani side of LoC show a very high state of alert since the beginning of this month. On May 1, regular Pakistan army soldiers had crossed over to the Indian side of the LoC, killing two security forces personnel and mutilating their bodies.
The ISPR statement, sources said, reflects the mindset of the Pakistan army, which is worried about a trans-LoC operation by the Indian Army to avenge the death and mutilation of two soldiers. “Such a statement is highly unusual and it follows their chief’s visit to the area. It is almost an admission that they are scared of our response,” sources explained. But the sources refused to talk about the certainty, nature or time of a trans-LoC response, stating that “these are matters which are decided at the highest levels after considering many factors. Our options and plans have always existed, even before these beheadings took place”.
Sources also said the Army has adopted a stronger stance on the LoC in the Naushera-Poonch sector over the past 14 days, using heavy weapons in direct firing roles, rockets and other infantry weapons to target the Pakistani posts and bunkers. The Pakistani side has also responded with equal intensity, forcing more than 1,000 villagers on the Indian side of the LoC to move to temporary camps. As reported by The Indian Express on April 29, there has been a sharp increase in the number of ceasefire violations on the LoC in Naushera, Poonch and Rajouri regions this year. While there were only two instances of ceasefire violations in 16 Corps Zone till mid-April last year, the number had now shot up to 60 this year. This was primarily led by a proactive stance of the Army, which was intent on repulsing any attempts at infiltration on the LoC from areas south of the Pir Panjal range.
Last year, there were 226 ceasefire violations on the LoC, south of Pir Panjal, up from 152 in 2015 and 153 in 2014. The ceasefire on the LoC between India and Pakistan was announced on November 26, 2003, and had been mostly upheld till last year. The ceasefire allowed the Army to construct the fencing on the LoC, while denying infiltrating militants the advantage of covering fire. This brought the infiltration of militants into Kashmir Valley down to a trickle, allowing the security situation to stabilise. A rise in ceasefire violations on the LoC over the past couple of years has accompanied the deteriorating internal security inside Kashmir Valley.