Rifleman Bhupender Basnet is sharpening his khukri in a heavily-fortified bunker barely a few hundred metres from the troubled Line of Control between India and Pakistan. Latest intelligence inputs on this section of the LoC in Poonch suggest the Pakistani army plans to target two extremely vulnerable posts—Haq and Kopra 2—where bunkers destroyed in previous strikes are still being rebuilt.
But Basnet, known as a booby trap expert in the battalion that guards one of the most vulnerable sections of the de facto Indo-Pak border, isn’t worried. “Their efforts to destablise the LoC don’t bother us. The enemy is well aware of what they’re up against,” says Basnet. The 26-year-old could well be speaking on behalf of the 5/4 Gorkha Rifles that holds over 25 posts in this sector. “We are more than capable of taking on a fresh wave of cross-border attacks,” says Basnet as his sharpening stone sings along the curved edge of the khukri.
The aggressive posture struck by the Pakistani soldiers perched on heights overlooking the posts has led the Gorkhas deployed here to be prepared for a counter-assault as they shore up defences against the threat from Pakistani posts - Kopra OP, Kopra LP and Brown Patch. “There are reports the enemy is talking about overrunning the two posts. Holding advantageous positions gives them that confidence. But I have told my boys it will be a jackpot for us as we won’t have to go looking for them,” says Colonel JV Singh, the 40-year-old commanding officer of the battalion.
The Poonch sector is guarded by one of the army’s largest brigades with nine battalions, and it was in this area that the army used artillery for the first time to strike back. A localised conflict triggered by the Pakistani army here can spread rapidly along the LoC as the army would then concentrate its firepower on the weakest Pakistani posts in other sectors such as Krishna Ghati and Bhimber Gali.
“When they talk about attacking specific posts, they are playing mindgames. “The intensity of our retaliatory strikes is not lost on them,” says Lieutenant General RR Nimbhorkar, commander of the Nagrota-based 16 Corps.
The Pakistani army has been indulging in speculative firing in the Poonch sector to provoke a reaction from Indian soldiers. Commanders say the so-called plan to strike at Haq and Kopra-2 may be an attempt to test the waters or spread propaganda to divert the army’s attention. Whatever be the motive, the army is alive to the threat.
“We carry out a detailed analysis of such inputs. The focus is on identifying our weaknesses and taking steps to fix them,” says Brigadier Navdeep Brar, the commander of the Poonch Brigade. “And then we look for the opportunity to move in for the kill.”