India is ready for the long haul in the ongoing exchange of fire with Pakistan on the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir. The top government sources ruled out any talks to de-escalate tension till Pakistan puts a complete stop to its cross-border misadventure of targeting civilians with mortar shells.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reported to have given the security apparatus a “free hand” in dealing with Pakistani forces, a brief that was picked up by Home Minister Rajnath Singh when asked the BSF to return Pakistan’s firing with full force.
Modi did respond with a perfunctory “everything will be fine soon” to questions on the border tension at an IAF function on Wednesday evening. But top sources in the Indian security establishment said the government would not allow Pakistan to “dictate terms” any longer.
A source said, “We are prepared for the long haul… Our massive and targeted retaliation is not going to stop. If talks or flag meetings are held, it will be on our terms and only after Pakistan stops firing.” This reaction came after one of the heaviest exchanges of fire in recent times that saw Pakistan targeting 63 BSF outposts along the IB on Tuesday night with India retaliating by 1000 mortar shells over 70 such Pakistani posts.
Pakistani troops resumed heavy firing around 9.45pm on Wednesday with shells raining down on Kanachak, Samba and Akhnoor sectors of Jammu. The Border Security Force issued an alert to Indian villages along the IB as Pakistan upsurged the shelling range from 4km to 7km. Also, the India journalists in Samba were asked to step back 2km into the home territory to avoid coming in the line of Pakistani fire.
Recent fierce cross-border clash caused civilian casualties on both sides that led UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to ask India and Pakistan to resolve their issues diplomatically through dialogue.
However, this time Indian government seems to be strictly in no mood to give in to Pakistan’s “coercive diplomacy” since it believes Islamabad has let loose its firepower across the international border, which unlike the LoC has settled populations and built-up areas on both sides, due to “sheer frustration” at repeatedly failing to “internationalise the Kashmir issue”.
It is noteworthy that the unresolved LoC was relatively quiet on Wednesday after seven ceasefire violations by Pakistani forces in Mendhar and Poonch sectors through Tuesday night. General Dalbir Singh said that his battalion commanders were “responding immediately and appropriately “to all provocations, while Indian Army settling the scores of Pakistani bunkers and positions in heavy fire since Monday night. A source said, “There has been a lot of damage to Pakistani infrastructure across the Rajouri sector.”
The BSF, along the settled IB, too has pulled out all stops under clear directions from the government to not exercise any restraint in replying to Pakistani firing. BSF director-general D K Pathak said, “Through heavy retaliation, we have sent a message to Pakistan that if they target our forces or civilians, they will have to pay. Despite the overnight firing, they have not been able to damage a single BoP on our side. Hence, in desperation, they are targeting civilian areas.”
Indian government’s strong resolve is evident from the fact that the border firing is being monitored at the highest levels, having national security advisor Ajit Doval receiving daily reports from BSF on the border operations. Prepared on specific instructions, these reports contain details of the scale of retaliation by Indian forces, according to the sources.