CROSS BORDER FIRING - PAKISTAN'S PLANNED STRATEGY

There are several reasons behind Pakistan's recent unprovoked border firings. Most of all it is a signal that Pakistan continues to cock a snook at Indian security forces and will not abandon the Kashmiri cause. But within Kashmir, the cause looks increasingly frazzled with trained mercenaries rather than freedom fighters calling the shots. Hundreds of freedom loving Kashmiri youth have been killed by pro-Pakistan groups during the last 8 years. But even now the Pakistan government and the agencies expect the Kashmiris to fight for accession to Pakistan. Why should they? And does Pakistan really care about innocent Kashmiri lives being lost in border firings. The Pakistani Army like the government has shown once again that the issue is not Kashmiris but geo-politics.

[Border in J&K]The escalated intermittent firing by the Pakistani Army on Indian positions has accentuated a feeling of insecurity and panic among the civilian population in the border villages of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Although Pakistani shelling is a common feature, what is new is the spurt in artillery and mortar firing by Pakistani troops since August 14, 1997. Several parts of the state have witnessed heavy shelling. The affected areas include Uri in district Baramulla; Karnah, Tangdhar, Keran and Nowgamin in district Kupwara and in the Kargil sectors. Further incidents of firing have been reported on some border posts in Kathua and Jammu districts. Five Army personnel including a Major and three civilians have been injured in these incidents since August 14, 1997. The villagers of Gundermo and Handermo, both in Kargil sector, moved to safer places following Pakistani shelling in these village. Our Army returned the fire causing some casualties on the Pakistani side and the destruction of many of their bunkers. Three Pakistani/Pok pockets at Manchkuli and Yadasi were destroyed by the Indian Army on September 4, 1997 across the Nowgam sector in Kupwara district.

The firing by the Pakistan forces from across the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir is a part of a set pattern and usually accompanies infiltration of trained terrorists from Pakistan. The extra vigil mounted by the Indian Army has not allowed infiltration to take place in a regular manner in recent years. The Pakistani Army appears to have resorted to firing for two or three days with the aim of creating a sufficiently large distraction for the Indian Army and then taking advantage of the situation to infiltrate armed militants into J&K.. The recent firing, therefore, is not much of a surprise given the fact that there is not much time left for the Pakistani Army to undertake the infiltration. By October, the weather turns extreme making crossings near impossible. So the real motive for firing by the Pakistani Army is to provide cover for infiltrators to sneak into J&K.

The Pakistani establishment also has reason to be worried over the situation in the valley where the pro-Pakistan sentiment is fast dissipating and even the APHC leadership finds is difficult to crank up pro-Pakistan demonstrations. Observers say, the recent firing was also meant toboost the sagging spirits of Kashmiri militants currently in the dumps. The militants hardly get any support from the people these days. Fresh recruits are hard to come by and their ranks are fast depleting. They live under constant fear of pro-India insurgents and the special task force of the state police which has become very active. Even such hardened pro-Pakistani groups as Hizbul Mujahideen, Harkat Ul Ansar and Lashkar-e-Taiba cannot operate with same ease and freedom as they did earlier. Besides, the new spirit of détente between India and Pakistan has been largely welcomed by the people in Kashmir. All this serves to undermine the militancy and it is only news of Pakistani bravado that once again lights hope of something drastic happening in Kashmir.

The ISI and military bosses of Pakistan have been fully aware of the severe setback that militants in Kashmir have been receiving after the installation of an elected National Conference government in the state and increasing non-availability of fresh Kashmir recruits for arms training. They have now come to dependent on mercenaries who are being sent to Jammu & Kashmir in sizeable numbers and who have entrenched themselves in some strategic areas all over the State. It is believed that fresh groups of mercenaries have lately been positioned across the LOC and that the latest spurt in firing was also aimed at providing them cover while they infiltrated into the Indian territory.

Reports have been circulating for quite some time now that Pakistan's proxy war in Kashmir was now being fought not by Kashmir militants but mainly by foreign mercenaries. It may be recalled that recently Indian security forces made huge seizures of Pakistani arms and ammunition that included an anti-aircraft gun of Russian origin. Such guns are being sent into the State for use by mercenaries who are better trained in guerrilla activities than local insurgents.

Pakistan also kicks up a row involving Kashmir whenever an international event is on the cards. Whether it is an occasion involving the OIC or the UN or other international event, Pakistan must do something in Kashmir. This time, the firing preceded the UN General Assembly meeting and Indo-Pak Foreign Secretary level talks. Similar provocative firing had earlier followed the visit of Pakistani foreign Minister to New Delhi in April 1997. Whether this serves Pakistan's cause is anybody's guess but it does not help the ordinary Kashmiri. And as far as Indo-Pak Foreign Secretary. Level talk are concerned, Pakistan's latest misadventure would have 'no impact'. This has been made clear by the External Affairs Ministry in New Delhi.

Observers also point out that the latest development are yet another instance of how Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharief, and the ISI-Army combine are operating on parallel lines. The spirit of détente that prevails at the top levels now in India and Pakistan, has not percolated down to the LOC in Jammu & Kashmir. Pakistani troops continue to be as belligerent as before and there is no let up in the unprovoked firing by them. Recently, they resorted to unprovoked firing in the Jammu region simply to prevent farmers from harvesting their crops in the border areas.

So who does all this ultimately help? The Kashmiri people or the agencies and the generals in Pakistan? The answer is obvious. The Pakistani Army knows that any firing by them on the border will provoke an Indian response. This Indian response will be played up by the Army and from them to the Pakistani media. The average Pakistani on the streets will get agitated hearing about Indian firing. Prime Minister Nwaz Sharief will be forced to support the Army. The Indian government will think twice about making any concessions to Pakistan. The vicous cycle will continue. Any guesses on who would stand to gain?


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