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Pay-back time on the LoC

For over fifty years, Pakistan has been waging a low-intensity limited war against India along the Line of Control (Loc) in Jammu and Kash...

Written by Gurmeet Kanwal |
June 28, 2000

For over fifty years, Pakistan has been waging a low-intensity limited war against India along the Line of Control (Loc) in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). India has dealt with the externally-sponsored terrorism with the utmost restraint. The world has applauded India’s remarkable Gandhian tolerance.

It can be justifiably argued that India’s real problem with Pakistan is Pakistan’s rogue army. It will never allow resolution of the Kashmir issue, as there would then be no justification for Pakistan to maintain a 450,000 strong military force. Having assiduously created complex linkages through the ISI with the mullahs, the drug barons and rabidly fundamentalist Islamist organisations and warlords like Osama bin Laden to destabilise India through covert means, Pakistan’s army is now inextricably involved in exporting terrorism and violence to India. It suits everyone’s vested interests to keep the pot boiling. The vigorous advocacy of jihad provides a share in the spoils of the narcotics booty. Power and pelf make a potent cocktail; this heady mixture is an extremely motivating incentive for institutionalising the perpetuation of a proxy war against India.

The only language the military junta in Pakistan is likely to understand is that of violence directed not against innocent civilians inside POK but against Pakistan’s army deployed on the LoC. It is possible for India to turn on the screws by inflicting local military defeats on the Pakistan army through a limited war of sustained attrition all along the LoC, while ensuring that Pakistan is not provoked into full-scale conventional conflict with nuclear overtones. Such a victory in a battle in the Akhnoor sector in January 2000, when the bodies of seven Pakistani soldiers were returned by the Indian Army, is known to have caused a furore in Pakistan.

To begin with, it would be extremely beneficial for India to launch punitive artillery assaults on Pakistani posts through which infiltration takes place. The Bofors 155-mm howitzer proved its capabilities, rather well during the 1999 Kargil conflict. A few more Bofors artillery regiments could be inducted into J&K to cover the entire 740-km length of the LoC with concentrated firepower. Whenever infiltrators are apprehended, a massive artillery assault should be launched on the Pakistani posts through which infiltration is suspected to have taken place. The pounding should be continued without let-up till every single bunker and weapon emplacement on that post has been reduced to rubble by the Indian artillery. The destruction of a few such posts would be a powerful disincentive for the Pakistan army and will prevent further infiltration.

Pakistan will retort in kind but, with its tottering economy, cannot afford to match the scope and extent of Indian artillery retaliation. India can easily afford to fire a few hundred thousand 155-mm artillery shells every year along the LoC, especially when tangible results can be demonstrated. To avoid collateral damage to villages close to the Pakistani posts, India should declare that all villages in POK within two kms of the LoC should be vacated. In due course, India could enforce a suitable demilitarised zone, like Israel has done in Lebanon. Correspondingly, some Indian villages will also have to be re-located, something the civil administration has been reported to have resisted for years. The flexibility of artillery firepower must be exploited to the utmost to achieve local tactical victories.

Another step that is necessary, indeed inescapable, is to initiate trans-LoC pro-active measures to raise the cost for the Pakistan army and the ISI to train, equip and infiltrate foreign mercenaries into J&K. In military terms, the required measures could include raids on terrorist camps, hideouts and staging areas close to the LoC by surrendered Kashmiri militants, specially trained for this purpose, ambushing of army convoys, missile, rocket and artillery attacks on headquarters and administrative installations and the blowing up of bridges, culverts, power stations and other infrastructural facilities supporting army deployments. Such trans-LoC measures are justified in international law. These have been sanctified in the 20th century by the numerous military operations of Israel and South Africa across their borders and, more recently, by NATO’s interventions.

The writer is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi

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