The attack on an army unit in Nagrota is a harsh reminder that militants continues to operate at will negating the theory that surgical strikes launched by India in late September will have a deterring effect on militant groups operating out of Pakistan.
On Tuesday morning, a group of heavily armed militants stormed a local unit of 16 Corps headquarters at Nagrota area of Jammu leaving three Jawans dead, including an army major. Three soldiers were also injured and one militant has been killed so far. The operation is yet to be called off, and at the time of writing this piece, the firing had stopped for sometime.
Reports said the soldiers were killed when militants launched a suicide-style attack between 5.30 and 6 am on Tuesday, giving little time for Indian Armed Forces to retaliate. The exchange of fire took place on the Srinagar-Jammu Highway near Nagrota, around 20km from Jammu. The state government closed all the schools in the Nagrota town, said Jammu's deputy commissioner Simrandeep Singh.
"Most of the children take this route to go to school. Keeping that in mind we decided to close down all roads leading to the site of the encounter and also have ordered the closure of the schools in the area,” Sing told Firstpost.
Three militants were killed and a BSF jawan — Sham Lal Agarwal — injured, when terrorists hiding inside in Fatwal area of Ramgarh sector — at least fifty kilometers from Nagrota — engaged in an encounter with BSF jawans on the International Border in Samba district. "Due to the dense fog, there is very less visibility in the morning. That is possibly the reason how they managed to enter this side and hide near a tubewell until we managed to track them down," a BSF official, who was not authorised to speak to media, said on the condition of anonymity.
Eyewitnesses of the Nagrota attack said that all the militants, who carried out the early morning attack, were wearing Indian army uniform and camouflage jackets and were heavily armed. The Nagrota encounter is one of the many strikes that militants have managed to carry despite a strict vigil on the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border after India carried out surgical strikes following an attack in north Kashmir’s Uri town that left twenty soldiers dead.
The fresh attack is likely to further worsen the already deteriorating relations between India and Pakistan, who have been accusing each other of violating the 2003 ceasefire. Since the Uri attack and India's subsequent surgical strikes, the skirmishes along the border have been rising sharply. Earlier they were restricted to small gunfire and sniper killings. Now, they are becoming increasingly perilous, with artillery shells being used for the first times in years, victimising even the civilians.
There has been a massive escalation in tension along the border areas and what distinguishes this recent flare up is the sheer scale and indiscrimination with which the armies of two nations have been targetting each other. At least 40 civilians and many more soldiers have reportedly died on both sides of Kashmir since the surgical strikes were carried out by the Army.
Coupled with the dangerously rising levels of infiltration along the LoC, the deteriorating security situation will pose a tough challenge to the forces in coming days who have to also deal with street protests and carry out counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir.
"The militants who carried out the attacks in Nagrota might have just entered this side of the border. The locals are hostile towards them, so they start attacking as soon as they enter," a Army official said.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, in early October, had said that India will carry out more “cross-border surgical strikes if its security is challenged”. “Missions like the surgical strikes on terror camps could be done again if the security of the country was challenged or jeopardised.”
With the surgical strikes failing to immobilise the militant groups who have scaled up infiltration across the LoC and international border the fresh attacks will put pressure on India to adopt harsher measure against these outfits with many experts suggesting the use of air force to strike at launch pads and terror camps operation in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.