In yet another indicator of the collusive military threat along Indian borders, Pakistan has hugely cranked up cross-border artillery and mortar barrages as well as small arms firings in Jammu and Kashmir this year, amid the ongoing troop confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh.
Ceasefire violations (CFVs) by Pakistan across the 778-km-long Line of Control (LoC) in just the first nine months of this year have already beaten all annual records for the last 17 years.
Latest figures tabled in Parliament on Monday showed India recorded 3,186 CFVs along the LoC from January 1 to September 7. Another 242 incidents of ‘cross-border firing’ took place along the 198-km international border in J&K, which is largely manned by the BSF, in the January-August timeframe. As per Army records, the total CFVs along the LoC stood at 971 in 2017 and 1,629 in 2018. The number jumped to 3,168 in 2019, with major spikes being registered first after the Balakot air strikes and then the nullification of Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K.
This year, the CFVs have averaged around 350-400 every month, with Pakistan keeping up the momentum ever since India’s military confrontation with China erupted after People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers intruded deep into eastern Ladakh at multiple locations in early May.
“Pakistan is obviously supporting its ‘iron brother’ China. It also wants to push as many terrorists and arms as possible into J&K before the mountain passes get blocked with snow. Our troops respond effectively to each and every CFV by Pakistan with targeted strikes,” a senior Army officer said.
The two-front challenge, with nuclear-armed neighbours, has become a grim reality for India. But though the Army’s attention is currently focused on the military confrontation with China, with as many as 50,000 soldiers each as well as tanks, howitzers and other weapon systems amassed along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, it has not diluted its operational readiness along the LoC with Pakistan.
The clearly-demarcated LoC has been volatile for decades, with Indian troops permanently deployed in posts, bunkers and camps all along its length as well as in the hinterland for counter-terrorist operations.
But now, India will also have to cater for an ‘active’ LAC, which stretches 3,488-km from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh. “If China wants to turn the LAC into something like the LoC, with stepped-up permanent troop deployments and posts, we are ready. Yes, it will be tough and expensive. But our troops are used to the harsh climate and terrain, unlike the PLA,” another officer said.
Apart from the LoC, Indian soldiers have also been deployed on virtually all the dominating heights in the Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge region since April 1984, when they pre-empted a similar move by Pakistani troops by launching ‘Operation Meghdoot’ in what is the world’s highest and coldest battlefield.