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AUGUST 2013 ISSUE

Guest Column - Force Magazine
Peace on the Line of Control
India should accept the challenges along the LC till some concrete measures are firmed up
 
Lt Gen. Mukesh Sabharwal (retd)By Lt Gen. Mukesh Sabharwal (retd)
The 778km long Line of Control (LC) from Akhnoor to NJ 9842 does not conform to easily recognisable terrain features in most sectors. The emphasis, therefore, is to hold areas physically and dominate them to establish a de facto proprietary right on ground, sometimes with scant regard to its tactical importance.

Strategically, the biggest security challenge is ‘maintaining the sanctity of the LC’. Loss of territory is just not acceptable. This imposes a huge constraint in terms of deployment as well as measures to dominate inaccessible areas, especially in winter. Any intrusion on the LC has to be evicted on priority. The other important challenge is that of ‘No Hot Pursuit’. This implies that any group of terrorists fleeing back to Pakistan or POK on interception cannot be pursued across the LC.

At the operational level, the army has to also contend against the proxy war being waged by Pakistan. It is imperative for the troops to gain and retain moral ascendancy by dominating the LC. The pressure of being deployed in close proximity across the LC, ‘eyeball to eyeball’ in some cases, is in itself daunting enough; the inhospitable high altitude terrain and extreme climate further accentuates levels of survivability.

A large number of terrorists have infiltrated into Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) ever since the advent of Pakistan’s proxy war against India. These have been actively assisted by Pakistani troops on the LC by way of guidance, diverting attention and by providing communications. Come the Kargil conflict and the level of Trans LC exchanges became brutally hostile. Firing was not only restricted to small arms but escalated to indirect support weapons carrying out gun duels. Ammunition expenditure increased manifold and the intensity of exchanges on the LC continued even after the Pakistani intruders in Kargil were thrown back conclusively.

The ceasefire that came into effect in November 2003 was most timely as it reduced violations along the LC to a trickle in the years that followed. The period was utilised by both armies to resuscitate their defences along the LC. Raids on isolated posts by Border Action teams that were quite frequent prior to ceasefire became almost conspicuous by their absence. Infiltration attempts, however, did not cease. In 2004, a fence was constructed over nearly 700km of the LC. Despite the exorbitant maintenance expenses and recurring effort, necessitated by damage due to heavy annual snowfall, the Anti Infiltration Obstacle System with its extensive coverage and surveillance sensors has been rather effective. The additional counter infiltration measures proved very effective and the successful infiltration decreased to an all-time low figure of only about 50 in 2008, according to the data presented by the Multi Agency Centre of the home ministry. As a consequence, violence levels in the hinterland within J&K caused by terrorist incidents decreased substantially. In effect, it translated into a large influx of tourists to the Valley and yatris visiting the Amarnath Shrine. The ‘Aman Setu’ was launched across the LC and the bus service at Uri and Chakan da Bagh commenced as part of confidence building measures.


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