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Indian Army killed 20 Pak soldiers along LoC in 2018: What must it do next?

Why is Islamabad not deterred when the Indian Army has killed close to five Pakistani soldiers for every single personnel it has lost? Why does Pakistan continue to violate the ceasefire agreement?

BS Web Team  |  New Delhi 

Army, soldiers, BSF, jawans
Islamabad has been made to pay a heavy price, with the Indian Army revealing that it has killed at least 20 Pakistani Rangers and injured seven more in 2018 itself in cross-border firing along the LoC

The is "inflicting heavy pain on the Pakistani side" and using coordinated fire assaults as it tightens the screws on Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC). In fact, the Indian Army's pressure on the Pakistani army along the LoC has reportedly forced the latter to sound 35 "red-alerts" for its border troops. For its part, Islamabad has been made to pay a heavy price, with the Indian Army revealing that it has killed at least 20 Pakistani Rangers and injured seven more in 2018 itself in cross-border firing along the LoC. However, given that the security forces estimate that close to 200 terrorists are waiting to cross into India and Pakistan's continued violations, are these military actions yielding the results we need.

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The data available on Pakistani casualties in 2017 and official statements from both sides indicate that at least since September 2016 (when the Modi government greenlit cross-border surgical strikes after the Uri terrorist attack), the has been employing a more muscular policy while responding to infiltrations and ceasefire violations. At present, according to news agencies, the has been conducting pro-active operations along the LoC. Indian forces have killed 138 personnel in 2017 in tactical operations and retaliatory firings along the LoC, intelligence sources told news agencies last month. The same sources revealed that the lost 28 soldiers during the same period along the LoC.

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Pakistani violations continue

While the has adopted a practice of not acknowledging the deaths of its soldiers, if the data is reliable, it begs the question: Why is Islamabad not deterred when the has killed close to five for every single personnel it has lost? Why is it that Pakistan continues to violate the 2003 ceasefire agreement?

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On February 15, the Pakistani Army claimed it has destroyed an post along the LoC, adding that the attack had led to the deaths of five Indian soldiers, the Pakistani daily Dawn reported. A video purportedly showing the attack from the Pakistani side was also released on Twitter.

This attack comes despite India's tough stance against such violations. According to reports, the Indian Army's local commanders along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir have been given full freedom to respond effectively to any Pakistani misadventure. Army sources told news agencies that the Indian side has been inflicting heavy casualties on Pakistani troops while retaliating to the latter's shelling along the LoC in the past few weeks.

One surgical strike not enough, sustained strategy for inflicting losses on Pak needed

Writing for the Business Standard in September last year, on the anniversary of the Indian Army's surgical strikes, Ajai Sahni, the executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management and South Asia Portal, said that despite the 2016 cross-border surgical strikes, both sides were "locked into a cycle of escalating and bloody exchanges, with no evidence of any visible strategic gain to either, and no way to back off without losing face".

Referring to tactical operations and cross-border strikes, Sahni argued that the surgical strikes "fell into a well-established tradition of retaliation" and that "they were no different in their strategic impact from earlier cross-border strikes". According to him, the impact of such strikes "can be no more than transient".

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Instead, for such operations to have a lasting impact, Sahni advocated a "sustained strategy of attrition against Pakistan", which should be implemented over the years and decades.

Perhaps, with the refusing to allow any letup in the pressure along the LoC, as reported by various agencies and media organisations, the powers that be in India have decided to pursue a policy reminiscent to what Sahni advocated.

Defence modernisation may be the key

However, the ceasefire violations, and the infiltration attempts that often spark them, might require another solution: At the moment, we appear to be using the resources at hand to deal with Pakistan. A more fundamental overhaul of the defence infrastructure might be required.

Speaking to Business Standard shortly after the Pathankot air base attack in January of 2016, C Christine Fair, an American defence expert and longtime Pakistan watcher, had said: "I do not see too many options that India has." She was responding to a question on how India could build an effective deterrence against Pakistan's sub-conventional warfare -- of which, the 2016 Pathankot attack, Uri attack, and the recent Sunjuwan camp attack are manifestations.

Pointing out that India had not made the investments needed to ensure deterrence against such acts "by way of offensive superiority on its international border", Fair had said that India's conventional posture on the international border was that of "defensive competence instead of offensive superiority".

Further, Fair assessed that defence modernisation for such deterrence would require India to reconfigure its military assets, "which were bulky and easily detectable, into smaller units that could be forward-deployed much more rapidly without the intelligence footprint that Pakistan can easily detect".

Lastly, but most importantly, there needs to be the political will to use these assets as and when required, she had said.


First Published: Fri, February 16 2018. 10:55 IST