M A I N   N E W S

After 14 yrs, Pak opens its guns in Kargil, Drass
Ajay Banerjee & Ravi Krishnan Khajuria/TNS

Army’s determined response
Aug 12: Pak troops open fire in Army-demarcated Kaksar sector that falls between Drass and Kargil; Indian Army returns fire
Aug 15: Pak troops open small arms fire and later switch to automatic weapons at Sando Post in Drass sector; Indian Army gives calibrated response
The Army, which had been using small arms, has started using automatic weapons and 81 mm mortars along the LoC

New Delhi/ Jammu, August 16
For the first time since the 1999 Kargil War, Pakistani troops fired on Indian posts along the Line of Control (LoC) in Drass sector on Thursday night and four days ago in Drass and Kaksar areas of the Kargil sector in the Ladakh region. Indian troops gave a calibrated response, Army sources said. A high alert has been sounded along the 740-km LoC that divides India and Pakistan.

Pakistani troops fired with automatic weapons at Sando Post in Drass area on Thursday night, sources said. Indian troops retaliated immediately. “Yesterday (on Thursday), they (Pakistani troops) opened small arms fire in Drass sector along the Line of Control from 9 pm to 10 pm. There was no injury or casualty on the Indian side to our troops. They then switched over to automatic weapons. We gave them a calibrated response,” said a senior Army officer.

The officer said Pakistani troops had opened fire in the Army-demarcated Kaksar sector loacted between Drass and Kargil on August 12, prompting a similar response from the Indian Army.

The first fire from the Pakistani side was with small weapons and they later switched to automatic weapons. The Army’s 14 Corps is guarding the frontiers in Ladakh region. He, however, dubbed the firing incidents as a localised affair.

In the Kaksar sub-sector area, Pakistani posts dominate National Highway 1-D that connects Kashmir with Ladakh. The road provides key access to Ladakh and all supplies are routed to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China on this road.

Given the topography in Drass and Kaksar, the distance between Indian and Pakistani posts is more and 10 to 15 rounds of small arms and automatic weapons does not have an “impact”, said the officer, admitting that Pakistan had never violated the ceasefire on the LoC since it was enforced on November 25, 2003.

In the Kargil War, India lost 527 men while 1,363 were wounded. Over 500 Pakistani soldiers, including officers, were also killed in the conflict engineered by the then military ruler General Pervez Musharraf.

The Indian assessment is that the firing in the Drass-Kargil areas, which are under the Ladakh Division, could have deeper meaning, but in the immediate it indicates tensions are on the rise. In the long run, it could mean spreading of the cross-LoC tensions to the Ladakh area. Pakistan could start unprovoked firing in other areas of Ladakh such as Batalik, Turtok and Tayakshi, all located further east from Kargil and in one of most rugged parts of the Himalayas and Karakoram ranges.

The Drass-Kargil sector faces Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). There is presence of Chinese troops in Gilgit-Baltistan, which has been reported by Indian and US intelligence agencies. The area is Shia dominated unlike the Sunni dominated rest of Pakistan. On the Indian side, the Muslims are Shia by faith and have a greater affinity with Iranian spiritual head Ayatollah Khomeini.

Over the last few months, Indian agencies have informed the government of unrest in several areas of Gilgit-Baltistan. In June 2011, Indian Defence Ministry-backed think-tank, the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), published a paper saying China was preparing to take over Gilgit-Baltistan. A source said Pakistan could very well outsource this section of LoC to China. A direct road access is available to China from its Xinjiang province into Gilgit-Baltistan.

Meanwhile, in the past 48 hours, the Indian Army has strongly reacted to ceasefire violations by Pakistan in the Kashmir and Jammu divisions. The Army, which had been using small arms, has started using automatic weapons and 81 mm mortars. “This is in response to use of similar weapons by the Pakistan Army,” a source said, explaining that troops have responded with great intensity along Bimbher Gali, Mendhar, Nangi Tekri and Battal posts. 





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