|By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army
Recent media reports headlined ‘Army changes tack, puts tanks at Akhnoor’ describe deployment of tanks and armoured vehicles in Chammb-Jaurian sector of J&K that had witnessed pitched battles during 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars. During these wars, Pakistan had tried to push through its mechanized columns through this region in order aiming to to cut off India’s access to the Kashmir Valley. It may be recalled that on September 1, 1965, the Pakistan army had launched Operation ‘Grand Slam to take seize control of the Akhnoor bridge in a bid to cut off the Nowshera-Rajouri-Poonch area from Jammu. Pakistan repeated the same tactics during 1971. In both wars, heavy tank battles took place in these areas. It is not that the Corps responsible for this region did not have mechanized forces.
However, their deployment and accretions serve a warning to Pakistan not to indulge in adventurism, and prevent any surprise by the enemy. Pakistan (recently described as ‘Terroristan’ by Eenam Gambhir, First Secretary at India’s Permanent Mission to the UN General Assembly), however, is unlikely to seek conventional conflict of this nature because a similar thrusts by India at places of its choosing would not only result in Pakistan losing precious territory but will jeopardize the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that China has tasked the Pakistani military to guard. Army Chief General Bipin Rawat speaking recently during the launch of a book said that the cross-LoC surgical strikes of last year were a message to Pakistan and hinted at more if necessary, saying, “The strikes were more of a messaging that we wanted to communicate and I think they understood that... If required and if the adversary does not behave, then we have to continue these kind of activities. But these are also other ways of doing things and they may not take the same form.”
With regard to the continuing infiltration by Pakistani terrorists, Gen Rawat said, “We are prepared for any infiltration. Terrorists are ready at that side of the border and we are ready on this side to welcome them. We will receive them and send them to their graves.” The Army is doing a wonderful job in blocking Pakistani infiltration across the LoC. In the run up to the first anniversary of the surgical strikes that were conducted by India into POK, Pakistan attempted three BAT (Border Action Team) actions within two months, last one being on September 26, exact date when India had launched surgical strikes into POK. The Pakistani BAT team comprised 8-10 personnel of army’s Special Services Group (SSG) and some LeT cadres that attempted to attacked forward Indian posts in Keran Sector but were successfully thwarted by alert troops. In the hinterland too, the Army has gone full hilt in eliminating numerous terrorist leaders and other terrorists; some 180 plus terrorists have been eliminated during 2017 alone as this article goes for publication. India has also effectively replied to Pakistan’s repeated ceasefire violations by inflicting heavy casualties on the Pakistani side though focused fire assaults; in one instance alone seven Pakistani rangers were reportedly killed. However, Terroristan (backed by China), is unlikely to change its policy of exporting terror, China’s concern not going beyond the security of CPEC; in which most Pakistani proxies will assist China – same way they are protecting Chinese economic ventures in Afghanistan. At the national level, India needs to focus on multiple issues.