From a hockey defeat to near war, a tale of two neighbours

  • Harinder Baweja, Hindustan Times, Gakhrial, Jammu
  • Updated: Oct 09, 2014 01:58 IST

Tensions on the international border (IB) escalated to a new high with heavy mortars flying across the entire length of the 192 km IB Tuesday night.

BSF Inspector General Rakesh Sharma confirmed that while 37 border outposts were targeted on Monday night. Pakistan Rangers fired at 63 outposts Tuesday night.

HT visited the Gakhrial post which has been under attack for the last two nights. BSF officials said they fired 60 to 70 mortars in the space of an hour while on Monday they had fired the same amount through the course of the entire night. "It feels like war," one BSF official said.

The escalation was also measured through mortars being fired in day light. Normally the border comes alive to the sound of shelling only at night but IG Sharma said bombs landed in Samba at 8.30 am.

Officials are now wondering how this spiral will end as there are no signs of a let up and india is clear about not seeking a flag meeting.

At the various posts along the border, officials know when and why it started. Several that HT spoke with said the firing started soon after Pakistan lost the Asian games hockey final to India.

The shelling, some say, had a lot to do with Prime Minister Narendra Modis US visit where he was feted by President Barack Obama while Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif's call for a plebiscite in Kashmir met with a tepid response.

"The Pakistani army is trying to focus international attention on Kashmir and this time they're trying to say that not only is the line of control disputed, the international border too is not clearly demarcated. We have no option but to retaliate" said a senior BSF official.

The retaliation is swift and intense. Commanders admit privately that they are not even bothering to counter machine gun fire with machine guns. It is mortars all the way. Even when Pakistan opens up with machine guns, the reply is given with heavy mortar fire, mostly 81 mm mortars which have an effective range of 5 km. "There is no point in wasting 10,000 rounds," said one commander.

Across the International Border, BSF companies are requisitioning for more bombs from their battalion headquarters.

As the sun sets once again, there is a sense of unease of what this night will bring and how many more mortars will have to be fired in what has clearly become a reaction/counter-reaction battle.

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