Analysis India & Pakistan resume border hostilities 5 months after calls to observe 2003 ceasefire

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The killing of 3 Indian soldiers Sunday is the latest flash-point with Pakistan but, so far, exchanges have been limited to small arms

New Delhi: The escalatory cycle of violence and rhetoric between India and Pakistan has resumed this week, nearly five months after top military officers on both sides agreed to revive the 2003 ceasefire.

So far, however, the exchanges have been limited to the level of small arms.

The immediate provocation was the killing of three Indian soldiers in Sundarbani sector of Jammu & Kashmir’s Rajouri district Sunday, by attackers who are suspected to have crossed the Line of Control (LoC). Two of the attackers were also killed.

“The bravest of brave Paltan will avenge. They always do…proud to be at the helm of JAKLI Regiment”, tweeted Lt General Satish Dua Monday.

Lt General Dua, besides being the Chief of Integrated Defence Staff, is the colonel commandant of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment. The Indian soldiers who were attacked and killed belonged to the regiment’s 8th battalion.

Ceasefire Under A Cloud

Following the killings, indications are that the decision to revive the 2003 ceasefire, reached at talks between the directors general of military operations (DGMOs) on 29 May, has been effectively rescinded.

The two sides are back to firing at each other but have so far kept it to direct, medium and heavy calibre weapons.

“If we see that there is a frequency in the rise of such incidents accompanied by the use of area weapons directed at us, that will be a definite sign of escalation,” a senior officer at Army Headquarters explained to ThePrint.

On Tuesday morning, the Indian foreign ministry served a demarche to the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi, expressing “grave concern at the continuing incidents of unprovoked ceasefire violations”.

“Despite repeated calls for restraint and adherence to the ceasefire understanding of 2003 for maintaining peace and tranquillity, Pakistan forces have carried out 1,591 incidents of unprovoked ceasefire violations along the LoC and IB in 2018 so far,” a statement from the Indian foreign ministry said.

The demarche comes ahead of formal talks, expected to be held later today, between the military operations directorates in New Delhi and Rawalpindi. These talks will be held at the Deputy DGMO level.

The demarche also came a day after the Indian Army issued a similar statement Monday.

“Pakistan Army has been vigorously attempting to send terrorists across the LC. Since 30 May, seven infiltration bids have been eliminated by the Indian Army in which 23 terrorists have been killed,” the Army statement read.

“Reports suggest a concentration of a large number of terrorists in the launchpads desperate to infiltrate before the onset of snow. A stern warning has been conveyed to Pakistan Army to restrain the terrorists operating from its soil,” it added.

No Clarity On Sunday’s Killings

There is also a fuzziness surrounding Sunday’s incident: The Indian Army has not yet conclusively determined if it was a Pakistan Army (supported or directly involved) operation by a Border Action Team (BAT).

The killers were wearing battle fatigues that are not of Pakistan Army regulars. The Indian soldiers killed were not “mutilated” — such as being beheaded or tortured, as has happened earlier. Two of the attackers were also killed. The attack was on the Indian side of the border.

The Indian Army estimates “five to six Pakistani armed intruders” crossed the LoC.

But a recurrence of such incidents, particularly as India steps into election season, is fraught with danger.

The Pakistan Army has so far either not responded or has refused to take back the bodies of the two attackers who were killed in the incident.

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