January 2005 News

LoC Firing Shouldn't Sour Dialogue

25 January 2005
The Daily Times

Islamabad: India has accused Pakistan of breaching the 14-month-old ceasefire across the Line of Control in Kashmir twice last week. Indian army officials say Pakistani troops fired 15 mortar rounds on Durga Post in North Poonch district last Tuesday. This incident was followed last Friday by another mortar attack as well as machinegun fire. On both occasions, according to Indian officials, their troops desisted from retaliating and held their fire. However, the Indian government seems quite cut up and the Indian army chief has been reported as saying that Indian forces are closely monitoring the events in Kashmir. For its part, Pakistan has denied that its troops were involved in any incident of firing. Pakistani DGMO (Director-General of Military Operations) Major-General Mohammad Yusuf also reportedly told his Indian counterpart that he would inquire into these incidents. Maj-Gen Yusuf has since said that Pakistan was clean and no Pakistani troops were involved in any firing incident. The Foreign Office spokesperson has said that the incidents have happened in the area controlled by India and the latter should find out who fired the mortar salvos and why. It is difficult to make an assessment because there is no indication of what type of mortars were fired, which direction the fire came from and what are the distances between the nearest Pakistani posts and the areas targeted within Indian-held Kashmir. We say this because generally three types of mortars are in use in the world: 60 mm (a company weapon with a firing range of 3,500 metres); 81 mm (a battalion weapon with a range in excess of 5,935 metres; and 120 mm (a mobile battalion weapon with a range of 7,240 metres). Technically, if any Pakistani troops were involved in the firing, any inquiry should have been able to find that out rather easily. Until the ceasefire 14 months ago, which incidentally was unilaterally declared by Pakistan and reciprocated by India only after Pakistan had taken the decision to hold fire, the LoC generally remained hot at least at some key points. The Indians fired regularly at vehicles and other moving targets in Azad Kashmir wherever they had the advantage of good line of fire; Pakistan did it wherever it had the advantage. Indeed, it was not uncommon for local commanders, right down to the company level, to get into these artillery duels. However, these two incidents are unique because they have come after the longest ever cease-fire peace along the LoC. The Pakistani contention that its troops are not involved makes sense because Pakistan has reversed its policy of facilitating infiltration and giving support fire to anyone trying to cross into India. In any case, the crossing should have become very difficult since the Indians put up the fence. Also, if the Pakistanis ever had a reason to break the cease-fire it would have been while the fence was not complete. At the time, despite rejecting the Indian fence as illegal, Pakistan nonetheless held its fire. Indeed, it makes no military sense to fire a few mortar shells, which is how the two incidents have been reported by India. The possibility of a non-state group mounting such an attack is much higher. The motive is not hard to find, especially if it can lead to an exchange of fire between the two armies, breaks the peace and sours the environment for the vested interests to exploit. What is also interesting is that these incidents should have happened at a time when India and Pakistan have clearly fallen apart on the issue of the Baglihar Dam Project, with Pakistan finally taking the problem to the World Bank. It is in the interest of both India and Pakistan to hold their peace along the LoC. It would do no good to either side to take any rash decisions and neutralise the progress made so far.


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