A suspected Pakistani army team was given covering fire as it penetrated into the Indian side of the Line of Control, attacked a patrol of the Indian forces that was looking for mines, killed two soldiers and mutilated their faces on Monday morning.
This latest atrocity took place during the visit of Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and him met in New Delhi on Monday. It is also at a time when youths and students in the Kashmir Valley are venting their ire at the security forces.
The two soldiers — JCO Paramjeet Sikh of the 22 Sikh and head constable Prem Sagar of the BSF's 200 battalion — were killed in Krishna Ghati, a particularly volatile sector of the Line of Control, in Poonch district. In 2013, not far from the spot in the same sector, two Indian soldiers were beheaded. It provoked the then leader of the Opposition, now external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, to urge the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ensure that 10 Pakistani soldiers were beheaded as revenge for the mutilation of each Indian soldier.
Sources in the Indian Army told Firstpost that a Pakistan Army "Border Action Team" (BAT) crossed the Line of Control, but did not breach the fence that runs along the boundary. The fence is inside Indian territory. But Indian forces also man posts beyond it. Zones of this stretch are often densely mined.
The joint patrol of the Indian Army and Border Security Force was heading towards a Forward Defensive Location (FDL) of the BSF. This is the area of responsibility of the Army and the BSF is under its operational command. Light artillery fire — rocket propelled grenades and mortars — had opened up around eight this morning. The soldiers were ambushed by the Pakistani BAT around 8.40 am on Monday.
The Indian Army's Northern Command, in a statement, has said that it will give Pakistan an appropriate response. In 2013, then Indian army chief, General Bikram Singh (now retired) had said "we will respond at a place and time of our own choosing".
But the rhetoric of the Modi administration and the "surgical strikes" in September, following the attack on an Indian army garrison in Uri, may see India upping the ante. So far, Indian forces have been known to employ light artillery. But "punitive action" may lead to the deployment of heavier weapons and tactics. While Krishna Ghati on the LoC is usually seen as a place by the militaries of India and Pakistan where a manageable level of armed conflict may be maintained, the official announcement that the bodies of the soldiers were mutilated escalates the tension.
In the context of the Turkish President's visit — Erdogan, who recently equipped himself with greater powers — this again serves as a reminder to one theory: Is Kurdistan Turkey's Kashmir? In both Kashmir and Kurdistan, there are armed insurgencies demanding secession; in both Kashmir and Kurdistan, state militaries are heavily deployed to control those insurgencies.
Erdogan once again brought the issue to the forefront shortly after landing in New Delhi on Monday evening. Though he said that Kurdistan and Kashmir are beyond comparison, he called for a multilateral dialogue resolve Kashmir, a position that runs contrary to India's stated policy.
By killing and mutilating the bodies of the Indian soldiers, Rawalpindi may have asserted loudly to Erdogan that Kashmir continues to remain the high-profile conflict it has been over the decades. Pakistan considers Turkey an ally and a supporter of its claim over Kashmir.
In Islamabad and Rawalpindi, where the army and the civilian government publicly disagreed over legislation, there is also a convergence of views on Kashmir. General Bajwa and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may now close ranks after demonstrating to the seething Valley that Pakistan continues to be with the stone-pelters.
For New Delhi's government and its military, still licking wounds after last week's attack and killings of an officer and a jawan at an artillery garrison in Punzgam near the LoC, the compulsion to respond with force is mounting by the minute.
Published Date: May 02, 2017 08:39 AM | Updated Date: May 02, 2017 08:39 AM