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Sunday, 12 October 2014

From Today's Papers - 12 Oct 2014

Pak guns boom again in Jammu
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Tribune News Service

Jammu/Poonch, October 11
After a brief lull, Pakistan today violated ceasefire twice along the International Border (IB) and the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch and Jammu districts, drawing strong retaliation from India.

“Around 1.15 pm today, Pakistani troops opened automatic weapons fire and also rained mortars on six Indian posts in Shahpur and Kerni sub-sectors along the LoC in Poonch,” said an intelligence source. The Army responded in equal measure, he added. The source said Pakistani troops opened unprovoked small arms fire on Indian posts in Shahpur, Kerni, Qasba and Kalsa areas along the LoC. “They also fired automatic weapons and mortars. The Indian troops guarding the borderline also responded in equal measure,” he said.

Heavy exchange of fire between the two sides was still on when reports last poured in. There has been no casualty or injury to the Indian troops so far. An Army officer said: “Pakistani troops are firing mortars and we are giving them a befitting response.”

A Shahpur resident said the exchange of fire was on till late evening. “Pakistani troops are targeting Indian posts on mother ridge. Civilian areas have not been targeted yet, but villagers are scared,” he said.

In Arnia, the Rangers pounded three BSF posts.

"Flat trajectory weaponry fire came at 2010 hours targeting our three border outposts in Arnia sector" said a BSF spokesman. He said BSF troops retaliated and intermittent fire of small arms continued from both the sides till late in the night.

Since October 1, eight civilians, including a minor girl and four members of a family, have been killed in intense shelling.
Indian Defense Chief Blames Pakistan for Kashmir Conflict
NEW DELHI — The Indian defense minister blamed Pakistan on Thursday for an escalating conflict that has claimed about 20 lives on both sides of the Kashmiri boundary and left thousands of villagers homeless in recent days.

At a news conference in New Delhi, the defense minister, Arun Jaitley, said the violence was caused by Pakistan’s attempts to “precipitate tension where none existed.”

“Pakistan in these attacks has clearly been the aggressor, but it must realize that our deterrence will be credible,” Mr. Jaitley said. “If Pakistan persists with this adventurism, our forces will make the cost of this adventurism unaffordable.”

On Monday, Pakistani officials said India had begun the latest round of conflict with “unprovoked firing.”
Continue reading the main story
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Shelling of military and civilian targets on both sides of the 114-mile de facto border dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan continued Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. Thousands of people have left their villages for relief camps to escape the cross-border fire, which has persisted for more than a week.

Residents of of Jora Farm, a village less than a mile from the divide in the Jammu region of the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, said six people had been wounded by shelling from Pakistan on Wednesday as they went to milk livestock. Twenty-six farm animals had been killed, they said.

“We will never go back to our village,” said one resident, Liaqat Ali. Two people from the same village were killed in August by shelling from Pakistan.

More than 25,000 villagers in Jammu are living in relief camps established by the state government and the Indian Army, officials said.
Nawaz tells army to pay back India in same coin
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday asked the army to employ a “tit for tat” strategy against India over the recent unprovoked border shelling and firing by the neighbouring country.
The National Security Committee, which met under the chairmanship of the prime minister on Friday, stated it was fully equipped to engage in a war against any power challenging the country’s sovereignty, however, war should be avoided at all costs, as it just brings catastrophe and destruction. The NSC ruled out a war with India and added that Pakistan’s armed forces are fully prepared to repulse any attack from the eastern neighbour. “War with India isn’t an option”, however, the armed forces are fully equipped to repel any attack on the country’s sovereignty, a statement issued by the office of the prime minister stated following the NSC meeting.
According to insiders, Prime Minister Nawaz spoke highly of the armed forces and expressed confidence in their capabilities. “During the meeting, not only he appreciated armed forces, but also directed the military establishment to use ‘tit for tat’ strategy against India,” a source told Daily Times. A source quoted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as saying that the leadership of the two countries must feel responsibility to diffuse tension. “
He said it is the shared responsibility of the leadership of both countries to immediately defuse the situation. The National Security Committee, however, resolved that any attempt to challenge Pakistan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty will be responded with full force, Nawaz Sharif’s office stated. The meeting was attended by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Adviser to PM on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif and senior military and civil officials.
The meeting discussed the situation arising from unprovoked firing by the Indian security forces across the Line of Control and the Working Boundary. The premier also deplored the loss of lives on the Pakistani side of the border as a result of Indian firing. The NSC noted with deep concern that the continuing ceasefire violations by Indian forces had led to the loss of precious lives and injuries to innocent people, including soldiers.
The committee, however, made it clear that Pakistan’s earnest desire for normalising bilateral relations and defusing the situation at the LoC should not be seen as a sign of weakness, it is in fact a sign of maturity and sincerity. The committee expressed the hope that both countries would respect the ceasefire agreement of 2003 and maintain tranquillity on the LoC and the WB, without indulging in blame-game and point-scoring. The committee expressed the resolve that any attempt to challenge Pakistan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty will be responded with full force.
The armed forces assured the National Security Committee that they are fully prepared to deal with any adversity at the borders. Any further escalation will only complicate the environment for meaningful discussion on the Kashmir issue and adversely affect the broader objective of regional cooperation. During the meeting, the premier said that his visit to Miramshah was a very moving experience. He paid rich tributes to the troops who are fighting against terrorists in North Waziristan and noted the sacrifices of soldiers who had laid down their lives in defence of their motherland. The NSC noted that sadly the unprovoked violations of ceasefire by the Indian forces had occurred in total disregard of the auspicious and festive occasion of Eidul Azha.
The committee offered condolences to the bereaved families of the 13 civilians and sympathies with the injured people. It commended the soldiers “who bravely and duly responded to the aggression”. The NSC noted that the government of Pakistan has pursued a policy of peaceful relations with all its neighbours. Initiation of peace dialogue of the 1990s, and more recently, participation of the PM Nawaz in Prime Minister Modi’s oath-taking ceremony are a manifestation of Pakistan’s sincere desire to constructively engage India to establish durable peace in the region.
Ceasefire violation: How India is misreading the 'suicidal logic' of Pakistani army
The week-long exchange of heavy artillery and machine-gun fire between the armies of India and Pakistan, causing 30 civilian deaths and displacing tens of thousands of petrified people, has rewound the clock to habitual animosity and fear. Craters and blown-up roofs of homes have erased the euphoria about positive vibes between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, in May this year. The sparring and poking that historically govern bilateral relations have sadly reasserted themselves.

Despite the plethora of Pakistan watchers in India and India experts in Pakistan, the tragedy of the latest flare-up along the Line of Control (LoC) and the international border (IB) is that neither party knows which factors are really driving the other side to behave so fiercely.

DK Pathak, director general of the Border Security Force (BSF), has expressed puzzlement to The Times of India as follows: "We have inflicted heavy damage on them, but they keep firing. I do not understand why." In a mirror image, the Pakistani major general commanding the forces, Javed Khan, is quoted by the BBC as saying, "I just want to know the reason from the other side. We are not finding the answer."

Whenever the ceasefire agreement of 2003 is battered by an uptick in cross-border firing, India and Pakistan resort to boilerplates for explaining the violence. Pakistan connects our belligerence with domestic elections and the competitive patriotism of ruling and opposition parties in India. We focus on the civil-military balance of power in Pakistan and believe that its mighty armed forces use periodic confrontations with India to straighten elected politicians who may stray in quest of amity.

Indeed, the last few months have witnessed a steady erosion of Nawaz Sharif's authority under the pressure of so-called civil disobedience campaigns of opposition parties of Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri, both of whom enjoy tacit blessings of the Pakistani military. By relying on the Army for securing critical state institutions against the protesters' threats of physical takeover, Sharif conceded that the military is Pakistan's ultimate arbiter and saviour.

To use a perceptive classification of the Pakistani intellectual Babar Sattar, the "de facto system" that struts in khakis has taught a lesson to the "de jure system" of Parliament and the elected prime minister. Raising the tempo at the LoC and IB, with Nawaz Sharif donning an embarrassed silence, is a way of reconfirming that Pakistan's India policy will not be allowed to transfer from the military headquarters in Rawalpindi to the prime minister in Islamabad.

Here, it is imperative to recall the psyche of the Pakistani military. Georgetown University's Christine Fair's recent book, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army's Way of War, argues that its strategic culture is a Kamikaze-like will to weaken "Hindu-dominated" India, come what may. Fair writes, "Pakistan will suffer any number of military defeats in its efforts to do so, but it will not acquiesce to India." For the Generals, any accommodation with India is "genuine and total defeat."

Warnings by India's leadership in the wake of the border clashes — that "times have changed" and that we would raise the costs of Pakistani adventurism to "unaffordable" levels by hitting back strongly — misread the suicidal logic of the Pakistani army. Pakistan is certainly inferior in conventional military terms and economically broke vis-a-vis a rising India, but expecting the former to respect this power disparity and back off from provocations is to forget former Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's dictum: "Even if we have to eat grass, we will make nuclear bombs" to match India.

If the Pakistani state is not guided by rational costbenefit thinking, the belief that we can somehow pummel and compel it to become benign is misguided.

Even Israel, which enjoys massive advantages over Hamas and Hezbollah in conventional military means, has not succeeded in silencing the guns of its rivals by means of disproportionate force. Be it Pakistan or combatants in the Middle East, the death-defying jihadist mindset is not cowed down by conventional superiority of the opponent.

So, what might actually produce the "credible deterrence" from attacks that Indian defence minister Arun Jaitley is touting? It has to be a mix of unconventional covert missions that blunt hardline Islamists and their allies in the Pakistani military, combined with routine political dialogue.

Much of the bad blood at the LoC is linked to infiltration of jihadists into India from Pakistani terrain under the cover of official army shelling. India has to take the battle to the launching points and supply-chain trail of these mujahideen inside Pakistani territory.

This would entail a westward shift of the point of kinetic action away from the LoC and IB, sparing innocent civilians in precarious border areas who are presently bearing the brunt of the two armies.

Simultaneously, dialogue channels with Sharif and some sections of the Pakistani military are essential, even if no solution or settlement is likely. Negotiation with intractable and camouflaged foes is necessary to glean valuable insights into bargaining tactics, bottom lines and authority structures of the adversary. As winter sets into Kashmir, the high-calibre weapons will head for their seasonal rest. The intelligence operations and diplomacy must go on.
Army plugs gaps during lull in firing
Jammu, Oct. 11: Pakistani forces allegedly fired at four Indian posts in a volatile sector on the Line of Control this afternoon, shattering hopes that a resumption of the ceasefire over the last 48 hours would lead to a more lasting peace.

The Indian military for sure has decided to take the relative peace as a time to prepare and plug holes in its own grid in anticipation of more hostilities to come. There is little reason to believe that Pakistani troops are not doing the same, especially after Islamabad’s responses following Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s National Security Council meeting on Friday.

On the Indian side, the army is taking a hard look at Poonch, where the ceasefire was violated this afternoon. The 93 Brigade that is responsible for the sector is without its designated commander and the deputy is officiating.

The commander is understood to have quit the service after the army opened a court of inquiry to investigate charges brought against the brigadier by his subordinates in August. The subordinates had alleged that he had exploited them with his misconduct.

The Poonch sector, where an Indian soldier was killed while patrolling in Balnoi on the LoC on October 2 — probably sparking the latest round of flare-ups — has seen ghastly events unfolding with regularity since the beginning of 2013.

A Pakistani Border Action Team (BAT) beheaded an Indian soldier and mutilated another on the LoC in the sector in January last year. Then, in August last year, the killing of five Indian soldiers also sparked a war of words and triggered ceasefire violations.

The abrupt departure of the brigadier commanding the sector has somewhat disrupted the chain of command. But it is also in the sector, say sources in the army, that the troops have taken a heavy toll on Pakistan’s military infrastructure in the past 10 days.

By sending out recce and observation missions, the army is reviewing its own military infrastructure. This has involved testing the physical defences, chiefly the fence that runs parallel to the zero-line on the International Boundary in Jammu and runs parallel to the LoC in the hills.

On the LoC, the fence was damaged in the floods and rains in August leaving gaps in certain stretches. On the plains, the ditch-cum-bunds (DCBs) — a defence peculiar to India’s western border — are largely intact despite floods and the pillboxes embedded in them are mostly usable.

The DCB is intended as both, a deterrent against an armoured invasion of tanks by an enemy and as a line of gun emplacements by Indian troops themselves. The DCBs are roughly 2km to 5km behind the border posts that are manned by the Border Security Force (BSF) and run the entire length of the IB in Jammu.

The constant review of military infrastructure here is not a surprise really. There are historical reasons. In both the 1965 and 1971 wars, the frontier on the plains of Jammu saw stupendous tank and infantry battles, as also aerial wars in the skies overhead.

A cursory review of the flare-ups of the past 10 days has suggested that not only mortars and small arms, but also heavier calibre rifles were probably used in a direct firing role. At one or two places, shrapnel that looked like they were from a 30mm gun was found.

The ebb in the number of ceasefire violations since yesterday is not taken as a sign of a more permanent peace in any way by the military. The commander of the 16 Corps told The Telegraph in an interview yesterday that Pakistan looked set to make an international issue out of Jammu and Kashmir. That was the reason it was firing across the boundary in Jammu, to emphasise that it disputes not only the Valley, but the entire state.

India’s response to violations, from its army and its BSF, also sits more comfortably with a changed regime in Delhi that enjoys a massive mandate. In addition, the political rhetoric has escalated in the run-up to the state Assembly elections. Polls are due in Jammu and Kashmir, too, and now look set to be held after peak winter.
Army to promote white-water rafting in Arunachal rivers - See more at:
The army has identified mountain rivers in Arunachal Pradesh as potential attraction for adventure tourists, especially among those interested in white-water rafting in the Siang, as the Brahmaputra is known as in the hill state that shares international boundary with China.

While a joint team of the Indian Army and Bangladesh Army, conducted a white-water rafting expedition on the Siyom river in West Siang district last week, more such expeditions are in the pipeline, official sources said. The state government has already started selling the Siang as a major white-water rafting destination, while three other routes have been also opened up, these being on the Kameng (Seppa-Bhalukpong), Subansiri (Taliha-North of Daporijo) and Dibang (Anini-Assam border).

The army in fact has set up its own Army Adventure Node Centre under the aegis of 5 Mountain Brigade at Aalo, the West Siang district headquarters, where the joint Indian and Bangladesh Army team, which undertook a week-long pre-expedition training before setting out on its 85-km rafting stretching over three days.
 “It was the first time that the army has explored the Siyom river, and the joint India-Bangladesh expedition was a wonderful way of launching it,” said Defence PRO Lt Col Suneet Newton. “Expeditions on the Brahmaputra right from the point where it enters India in Arunachal Pradesh to Dhubri, where it flows out to Bangladesh, are on the cards,” he added.

The Siyom, which is also known as the Yomgo and happens to be the largest river in the district, originates in Tibet, enters India by meandering through steep gorges on the India-China border at an elevation of about 3700 metres, to join the Siang (Brahmaputra) at Pangin, about 30 kms road distance from Aalo. “The army has done several expeditions on the Siang, Kameng and some other rivers, but last week’s was an international expedition that will carry the message further,” Lt Col Newton said.

Chief minister Nabam Tuki, whose government has identified tourism as a major economic activity for the ecologically fragile yet richest in biodiversity state, says Arunachal Pradesh is fast emerging as a major tourist destination not only within India but also across the globe.

“Aptly referred to as ‘the Paradise Unexplored’, Arunachal Pradesh has indeed emerged as a major destination of the world. While the breath-taking beauty makes one feel perfectly harmonious with nature, the religious sites provide the spiritual respite of a lifetime. But what is most important is that it is also a treasure house for adventure seekers-mountaineering, trekking, white-water rafting and angling. You name it, we have it all here,” chief minister Tuki said.

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