With the media-generated mass boo-hooing attendant on the killing of the five jawans of the Bihar Regiment on the LOC in J&K, some core issues are being lost sight of. Firstly, as I have mentioned in a previous blog, such murderous attacks are virtually the norm followed by both the Indian and Pakistani forward deployed army units. Indeed, such strikes on targets of opportunity are encouraged by unit commanders to showcase the offensive-mindedness and battle-readiness of troops under their command, to give the troops otherwise bored by routine patrolling and similar tasks something aggressive to do to keep their fighting spirit stoked, and to earn merits for the ‘paltan’ and self with the higher command. There’s no point in mass hysteria and political frothing at the mouth every time there’s such an incident.
Secondly, pointing fingers at Pakistan is useless because there’s no knowing which side initiated such grisly acts in the first place long many years ago that set in motion the action-reaction sequence and has become a form of on-going, undeclared, war on the LOC. Call them micro-wars, almost guerilla actions, in a time of ostensible peace between the two countries, the waging of which, clearly, has the sanction of the Headquarters of the two Armies and, indirectly, of the two governments. These micro-wars involve not just mainline units but also often, Special Forces units, penny-packeted as army reserve, Northern Army.
Thirdly, if this is a pattern of violence on the LOC, shouldn’t the Indian Army by now have modified their patrolling procedures to prevent stragglers, to have the troops not strung out over an area, and create patrols of critical size so they cannot be easily ambushed? Shouldn’t units on notice for deployment on LOC be trained in such tactics and patrolling regimes? The Army has obviously been remiss in not modifying the attitude and mode of operating on the LOC of the forward units, despite the frequency of such incidents.
And finally, why should the larger peace process with Pakistan be derailed on account of this atrocity? As in the case of China, it shows up this country’s linear mindset when the complex reality demands a different policy tack. We can have trade, cultural exchanges, even military hotlines but also continued acts of border frictions, tyargeted intelligence operations, and strategic posturing with China as much as with Pakistan. We all better get used to it. The pity is neither the Indian people nor the government and military seem up to the task.