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Pak calibrating LoC stunts

If Jammu and Kashmir is in ferment over the Amarnath temple land transfer issue, the border there is not exactly calm either, writes Rahul Singh.

india Updated: Aug 10, 2008 23:14 IST
Rahul Singh

If Jammu and Kashmir is in ferment over the Amarnath temple land transfer issue, the border there is not exactly calm either. Ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops along the Line of Control (LoC) have been taking place with increasing frequency lately - there have been 21 of them this year. The total number of such incidents in the four years before 2008 - ever since the ceasefire agreement was signed in November 2003 - were fewer.

Why is this happening? It is an instance of 'calibrated mischief' by the Pakistani army brass to 'reassert its power', say military intelligence officials.

"The Pakistani army wants to dispel any impression that its authority has been weakened after the restoration of democracy," said a senior army officer.

With the political establishment led by Prime Minister Gilani equally keen to emphasize its position, there is every likelihood of minor skirmishes along the LoC continuing regularly in future.

But the Pakistani army will be careful not to take its adventurism to such lengths that it boomerangs. The intention is not to start a war with India, and burn its fingers again. Defence minister A.K. Antony asserted last month that the Indian Army was fully prepared to deal with any border violations firmly.

"The firing is not of such intensity as to warrant massive retaliation from our side," observed another officer.

However, there is one ominous implication in these firings. Their frequency has increased in June and July, which is the end of summer and just the time of year when infiltration into Kashmir peaks. Are the violations a message as well from the Pakistani army to the infiltrators, saying in effect: 'don't worry, whatever may happen in Islamabad, we are still behind you'? Are the border violations cover fire to enable militants to slip into India?

An aggressive stance on the LoC helps the Pakistani army cultivate an image of being a champion of the Azad Kashmir cause. And it is certainly betting on this image to score brownie points with jehadi elements and radical Islamic groups back home.