Cross-border gun battles on the international border in Jammu have stopped since Friday night with India and Pakistan choosing to exercise restraint and avoid any further escalation of the volatile situation.
The development comes two days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed disappointment with Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif over continuous ceasefire violations despite the latter’s commitment to maintain peace on the border.
“It followed backchannel negotiations between India and Pakistan at the diplomatic level,” a senior government official told HT, adding, “The BSF was advised to seek a meeting at a designated point along the international border.”
As per the mechanism, company commanders of the BSF and Pakistan Rangers met and requested a meeting at a senior level. “The meeting is likely to take place in the next 48 hours if peace prevails along the border,” the government official confirmed.
Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, while on a visit to Jammu three days ago, had said India should “give Pakistan a befitting reply”. But the backchannel negotiations led to a change in this stance, and the home ministry conveyed the need for restraint to BSF DG Subhash Joshi on Saturday.
The directions to the border force came after discussions on cross-border firing and its ramifications between Shinde, national security advisor Shivshankar Menon, home secretary Anil Goswami, the Nagrota-based 16th Corps commander Lt Gen DS Hooda and top intelligence officials at various levels this week.
At the unified command meeting chaired by Shinde last Tuesday, the army emphasised that an active border was not in India’s interest — since troops would be hiding in bunkers, infiltrators could easily cross over. Gen Hooda admitted that the cross-border firing was endangering civilians. He said that while the army was backing the BSF and was prepared for all scenarios, there was a need to bring down temperatures on the border.
It now transpires that the government has taken a series of steps to prevent infiltration and to adopt a proactive strategy against terror attacks. Shinde was informed by senior officials that after the September 26 twin fidayeen attack on a police station in Kathua and an army camp in Samba, it has been made mandatory to have an army personnel present at the three police control rooms in Jammu and one in Srinagar so that terror alerts can be conveyed in real time.
According to top government sources, the 16th Corps was alerted within 15 minutes of the attack on Hiranagar police station in Kathua. Even the 16th Cavalry unit, whose camp in Samba came under attack from the same terrorists, was in the know of the Hiranagar attack. But no follow-up action was taken as the unit thought the attack was limited to Kathua.
The three terrorists managed to kill six persons, including four police personnel, in Hiranagar and four army personnel, including a lieutenant colonel, in Samba before being gunned down.
Shinde surveyed the 16th Cavalry unit area and reviewed the action taken. The security forces admitted to lapses during the Samba terrorist attack and promised to take remedial action.
The government’s big picture assessment now is that Pakistan will do its best to push in infiltrators before the snow sets in, so as to boost terrorist strength in J&K and ensure there is enough fodder for action when the state goes to polls next year.