Post Balakot strike, Punjab witnessed heavy drone activity by Pakistan with the flying machines, in many instances, breaching the Indo-Pak international border in bid to ferret out Indian Army deployments.
The Indian Express has learnt that the heavy drone activity was noticed from Pathankot to Fazilka districts. Sources in the Army say the Pakistani drones carried out recce mostly at night. “Our troops could hear the noise of the drones and the light on them was also visible. However, it was not possible to shoot them down with small arms during the night,” an officer said.
In certain areas, where air defence guns were available, attempt was made to acquire these drones as targets but the low radar profile of these flying machines made it difficult to lock the air defence guns on to them. “The drone activity by Pakistan along the International Border is a recognised fact and this aspect is known to intelligence wing as well as security agencies guarding the area,” a source said.
This revelation comes in the backdrop of the claims made by the Punjab Police that drones have been used to smuggle in weapons from Pakistan. According to police, GPS-fitted drones capable of lifting up to 10 kg flew in from Pakistan seven to eight times in September to airdrop a cache of arms, ammunition and fake currency. Five AK-47 rifles, 16 magazines and 472 rounds of ammunition, four Chinese-made .30 bore pistols, along with eight magazines and 72 rounds of ammunition; nine hand grenades, five satellite phones with their ancillary equipment, two mobile phones, two wireless sets and fake currency with face value of Rs 10 lakh were later seized, they said.
They also claimed to have recovered a damaged drone from near Muhawa on the Indo-Pak border in Amritsar sector in August this year.
The Punjab Police had earlier claimed to have busted a terror module of the Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF), backed by a group based in Pakistan and Germany. which , it said, was conspiring to unleash a series of strikes in Punjab and adjoining states
Four members of the module were arrested from the outskirts of Chohla Sahib village, police had said adding that during questioning, the accused told investigators that GPS-fitted “big” drones were used to drop arms and ammunition from across the border in Tarn Taran district.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, police officials serving in the border districts say that the surveillance drones flying from the Pakistani side are often visible to the villagers in the border areas on India side and that such sightings have been brought to the notice of the police officials and the Border Security Force (BSF).
“Unlike the J&K border with Pakistan, where exchange of live fire is routine and such drones are brought down immediately by firing at them, there are no such standard operating practices in Punjab. A policy decision will have to be taken by the state as well as the union government because opening fire in border areas may lead to exchange of fire between Indian and Pakistani security forces,” a senior official said.
It is learnt that the Punjab government has started the search for counter-drone measures, which may have to be acquired from foreign vendors in order to tackle this new security threat. Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh had brought the issue to the notice of the Centre terming the use of drones for delivery of weapons as “a new and serious dimension on Pakistan’s sinister designs”. He also asked the BSF and IAF to address the threat caused by the drones.
However, these low flying drones cannot be detected by the IAF radars as these barely skim the tree tops and there is no radar coverage for such low flying objects at present.