Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pakistan needs firm Handling and not Niceties.

By Lt- Gen Harwant Singh ( Retd )
The recent killing of four soldiers and one junior commissioned officer near the LoC in the Poonch sector of J and K is yet another serious violation of peace along this line. For Pakistan army to resort to un-provoked firing, across the LoC to attack Indian posts or ambush patrols, is not very uncommon. Sometimes a new commander on arrival tries to display offensive spirit to his troops and orders then to indulge in such activities. The best way to make this army desist from such activity is to severely punish every such act.
During the early nineties, making the best of a wide gap in the Indian posts, Pak troops crossed the LoC, in the Poonch sector, and established a post in the upper part of an Indian village called Kirni. Such an act on the part of Pak troops sent reverberations all the way to Delhi, and consequent pressure for immediate action. Pak army knew that we could not evict it from that post without adequate artillery support and that Indian commanders had to take sanction from Delhi to use artillery! Not willing to hustle troops into action without proper preparations, I resisted the pressure. A few days later, after careful preparations and putting in place an appropriate deception plan, we evicted Pak troops from the area. They left behind the dead bodies of a soldier and an officer.
We held a flag meeting where it was agreed that we would hand over the dead bodies at the LoC near the town of Poonch. Observing full religious rites, and accompanied by a Muslim religious teacher, these bodies were returned with full military honours, where a few thousand civilians from both India and Pakistan had assembled to witness the proceedings. We observed religious rites and military honours to drive home the point to the people Pakistan that we are a civilized country and extend full respect to even the ‘enemy,’ dead.
Since this ceremony had been witnessed by a few thousand Pak civilians and seen their army receive dead bodies of their soldiers, it was obvious that Pak army will not live with this ignominy and would certainly retaliate in a big way. Therefore, it was essential to be fully prepared for such a possibility. It was more likely that Pak would try to recapture the same area from where it had been evicted and where we had established a temporary post.
It was around 2 AM that the GoC of the division called me on the phone to say that the artillery observation post officer could see a large body of Pak troops advancing on this temporary post. I told the general to engage the enemy with all the artillery we had deployed for such an eventuality. No one had ever witnessed, during peacetime, so much of artillery come into action at the LoC. Predictably the attacking troops were decimated much before they could get anywhere near our post. Pak commander thought that it was perhaps a chance engagement of their attacking troops, so the next night he tried to attack the post from another direction, not realizing that we had deployed the means to observe his activity at night. This attack too met with the same fate. Then followed frantic calls from Pak army to our Director General of Military Operations at Delhi, pleading for a ceasefire, because our artillery would not allow any movement and therefore, their dead and wounded could not be evacuated.  Intelligence sources put the Pak casualties at more than two hundred. During the next year and a half of my tenure, total peace prevailed along the LoC, in our Corps Zone.  

The purpose of narrating this incident is to point out that Pak army needs firm handling and strong retribution to every act of violation of peace, along the LoC, on its part. Commanders in the field in J and K must, without exception, act firmly with Pak army and let no mischief, along the LoC, go unpunished. Those of us who have had experience of deployment along the LoC in J and K would bear with this observation. Pakistan and it’s army is less likely to respond to protests, pleadings and diplomatic niceties.
With kind courtesy of Hindustan Times, Chandigarh Edition. 

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