Army chief General Bikram Singh has reprimanded his top commanders in Jammu and Kashmir for not launching a massive retaliatory strike against the Pakistani army along the Line Of Control (LoC) after five Indian soldiers were killed in an audacious cross-border strike in Poonch sector on August 6.
General Singh visited the Nagrota-based Headquarters 16 Corps outside Jammu a day later and, according to top sources, asked senior commanders why local commanders along the volatile border did not order artillery and mortar fire on Pakistani posts.
The chief had instructed local commanders on the LoC to retaliate strongly, if provoked, after the January 8 cross-border raid in which Pakistani troops beheaded one Indian soldier and gunned down another 500 metres inside Indian territory in the Mendhar sector.
The border remained tense with Pakistani troops violating the ceasefire yet again early Saturday, firing more than 7,000 rounds of ammunition and mortar shells for almost seven hours at Indian posts in Poonch sector. In retaliation, Indian troops fired 4,595 rounds of ammunition, including mortar shells.
It was the 58th incident of ceasefire violation this year and came just a day after Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif said the neighbours should honour the 2003 ceasefire agreement and not allow the situation to escalate.
A senior army official said there was no ambiguity in the army chief's orders to mount a massive response in case of provocation by the Pakistani army by way of ceasefire violations.
"The first question the chief asked the J&K commanders was what stopped them from retaliating with artillery and mortar fire. His orders for offensive action were clear," he added.
"I expect all my commanders on the LoC to be aggressive and offensive in the face of provocation and fire," General Singh had said after the January attack.
A top government source agreed with the aggressive stance advocated by General Singh, saying India should be able to punish Pakistan or the so-called non-state actors at a threshold below full-scale war.
The use of artillery could escalate tensions along the border, but it is equally critical for the army to take decisive action to punish Pakistan, experts said.
Under pressure over the mishandling of the Poonch attack - defence minister AK Antony first blamed "persons dressed in Pakistani army uniform" and later retracted, saying the intruders were "specialist troops" - the government has finally been able to build political consensus to launch punitive strikes against Pakistan if such cross-border raids are repeated.