Pak blinks, offers ‘moratorium’ on artillery firing to ease LoC tensions
Islamabad has blinked first in the staring battle along the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border between India and Pakistan. Under sustained pressure from India, Pakistan has offered to de-escalate tensions along the LoC . The offer to India was made by the Pakistani military “through the institutionalised military channels of communication between the two sides,” a senior official in the Indian security establishment said on condition of anonymity.
The Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two countries are regularly in touch and HT learns that the offer may have come during such an interaction.
Pakistan has offered to remove its Special Service Group (SSG) – the special forces of Pakistan – from the LoC and even suggested a “moratorium on the artillery fire from both sides,” a report sent to the Prime Minister’s Office said. HT has seen a copy of the report.
After the Pulwama suicide car bomb attack by a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist on February 26, which left 40 troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) dead and led to the subsequent air strikes by the Indian Air Force on Jaish’s training camp at Balakot in Pakistan, Islamabad moved special forces and troops along the LoC and the border and “maintained a precautionary deployment”.
India’s pressure on Pakistan was not just along the border, but diplomatic as well. With the US, UK, and France backing India, China agreed to remove its so-called “technical hold” on declaring Maulana Masood Azhar, the emir of JeM, a global terrorist by the United Nations Security Council. Simultaneously, India is also pushing the Financial Action Taskforce (FATF), a global body that watches money laundering and terror funding, to blacklist Pakistan.
In the report, the Indian Army has said that there have been “no infiltration attempts,” and “no attempt to (carry out) cross border tactical action since the Pulwama terror attack.” Interestingly, terror launch pads along the LoC, from which terrorists infiltrate India are empty. “Terror infrastructure in close vicinity of the LoC has been temporarily closed due to overall pressure being maintained on Pakistan,” the Indian Army added in the report.
The thinning out of terror launch pads were reported “from active areas like Poonch and Rajouri as well,” a senior defence ministry official said, asking not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media. “These are clear on-ground signals from Pakistan for de-escalation.” Recently, when formations along the LoC also repaired bunkers --an annual feature to prepare for the monsoons-- the “Pakistan army didn’t interfere,” the official added.
The government had warned the Indian Army and especially the Corps Commanders to take “adequate precautions” to prevent cross-border raids by the Pakistani army after the Pulwama suicide attack. And, while the Indian Air Force was planning air strikes, the Indian Army reinforced its positions along the border and adopted an aggressive posture all along the LoC and the international border. “There were over 100 instances when artillery was used,” the official said and added that “the use of artillery has considerably reduced now.” Pakistan army positions along the border from where Border Action Teams could be launched into India were especially targeted. “In the initial days, several Pakistan Army positions were destroyed, and we have not allowed them to rebuild or these positions,” a second senior official in the ministry of defence said on condition of anonymity.