Before the ceasefire agreement was signed in 2003 between India and Pakistan, ceasefire violations were a regular feature all along the Line of Control. During these engagements, heavy artillery fire was exchanged very frequently. Such artillery and mortar duels generally caused larger casualties among the civilians compared to the armed forces, as civilians had no overhead protection. Pakistan resorted to cross-border firing in the recent past mainly to facilitate the infiltration of militants into Jammu and Kashmir.
The violation across the international border besides the LoC was aimed to enlarge the conflict to force India to open talks.
The numerous ceasefire violations started by Pakistan in the first half of this month along the international border were of a different genre, fire was now far more intense and heavy weapons were used to target civilian areas. The reasons for this sudden and ferocious assault were not far to seek: having failed to receive any response from the international community of Nawaz Sharif’s appeal at the UNGA last month for reviving the old UN Resolutions regarding holding a plebiscite in Kashmir, Pakistan opened a new front to attract attention of the international community. The violation across the international border besides the LoC was aimed to enlarge the conflict to force India to open talks. Unfortunately for Pakistan, both these attempts failed. Whether it helped infiltration attempts in some sectors, is not known. After this major ceasefire violation and targeting of civilian areas the old ceasefire agreement is all but dead, and in future, sporadic ceasefire violations of various intensities should be expected.
Pakistan does and will continue to blame India for ceasefire violations and also claim to have suffered heavy civilian casualties from what they term as “unprovoked” firing by India. The mechanism of flag meetings between field commanders and activating of the hotline between the two Directors-General of Military Operations for holding fire, failed in this instance. It is obvious that to deter Pakistan from continuing with future ceasefire violations, India will have to take some other measures as no fool-proof method has been found to deter Pakistan from opening fire across the LoC or the international border at will.
In this kind of static, linear and limited engagements, the weaker side has the advantage, as superior force cannot be brought to bear on the enemy without crossing the LoC. Crossing the LoC, which is now an internationally-recognised border in J&K, will immediately ring alarm bells and draw unwarranted international attention to the Kashmir problem. All factors considered, crossing the LoC or waging a limited war will not solve the problem, for it would upset the present status of the Line of Control so assiduously drawn as a permanent border after the 1971 war.
It will be necessary to isolate and destroy Pakistani forward posts and forward logistic support bases fully.
Any intensification of the firefight across the LoC will not deter Pakistan from resorting to border firing in the future. This means India will have to adopt new weapons and methods to fight a static war that would gravely hurt Pakistan. India will require new techniques, tactics, weapons systems and technology that will cause unbearably heavy casualties on Pakistani forces deployed on the LoC/border. The new techniques and weapon systems should be such that they would penetrate the enemy’s concrete overhead shelters over their bunkers and communication trenches to expose Pakistani troops to lethal firing.
The new weapon systems should be able to cause very heavy casualties, cut off lines of retreat and destroy logistic support bases in the immediate vicinity of the offending Pakistani posts, also jam their rear and forward communication systems. It will be necessary to isolate and destroy Pakistani forward posts and forward logistic support bases fully. In the past, when concrete bunkers were not available in forward areas, to either side, many posts had to be abandoned when their overhead cover was blown open by artillery fire, exposing men and material to highly lethal fire. Some of these posts are still there and are called barbad posts.
A disturbing feature of the border/LoC war is the extensive loss of life and property of civilians living in border areas. Their life is in danger during all border incidents. Moreover their normal life is disrupted for long periods. They are unable to work in their fields or harvest their crops. Their communication and food supplies are cut off. During the current spell of cross-border firing, the death toll in India rose to 12 and the number of injured could be counted in hundreds. Thousands had to leave the areas straddling the LoC and the international border.
…this time our army meted out very heavy punishment, it was not sufficient to stop sporadic ceasefire violations by the Pakistan army.
As Indian and Pakistani troops continued their prolonged exchange of fire, Pakistan deliberately targeted dozens of villages, killing and injuring a large number of women and children. In such an environment, it is obvious that the doctrine for dealing with cross-border firefights must include plans for evacuating the affected civilian population out of the war zone in an orderly and well-organised manner. It is perhaps necessary to build and maintain concrete shelters in the vicinity of the affected villages, where villagers can find immediate shelter from enemy fire without running away from their villages. The armed forces must take the responsibility of providing medical aid in situ and evacuating casualties to civilian hospitals in the rear areas.
It seems at present that our army does not have a separate doctrine for this kind of static engagements with Pakistan forces. Although, this time our army meted out very heavy punishment, it was not sufficient to stop sporadic ceasefire violations by the Pakistan army.
Incidentally, unconfirmed reports say: a) Pakistan lost around 165 people, which included 85 military personnel. b) Approximately, 80-90 Pakistani posts were either fully destroyed or rendered operationally ineffective. c) About 400-450 jihadis waiting to cross over were forced to fall back to their staging areas.
Regardless of this information being right or wrong, reports are coming that Pakistan has recommenced sporadic cross-border firing; it is therefore obvious that a better well formulated plan is required to deter Pakistan permanently.