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Posted at: Nov 17, 2019, 7:41 AM; last updated: Nov 17, 2019, 7:45 AM (IST)

Without crossing line

Brig Sandeep Thapar (Retd)
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Brig Sandeep Thapar (Retd)

Brig Sandeep Thapar (Retd)

THE word LC or LoC (ceasefire line) invariably evokes thoughts of firing, shelling, infiltration attempts and violence, especially in times when relations between India and Pakistan get strained (which is pretty often). Undoubtedly it is the largest eyeball-to-eyeball deployment of forces along the (de facto) borders between two nations, who have fought four wars. But it is not always that the response is violent; there are umpteen occasions when diverse informal interaction also takes place.

The Pakistani army is Punjabi-dominated and the areas where the bulk of our forces are deployed opposite them, also have a fair share of Punjabis. The reactions are, therefore, very similar to how most North Indians would react to a situation.

In Op Brasstacks, we were deployed in Bhimber Gali (Rajouri). The battalion had a typical LC deployment — at some places Pakistanis looked into our posts, at others we dominated them. Both had steadfastly occupied these positions since 1971 despite the tactical unsuitability of some locations. Our battalion had moved in from western UP. I was at a post called Big Tree, which was heavily dominated by a Pakistani post. I found there was little daily activity with the post being small in size. The situation along the LC was also quiet. So I decided to organise some training. The next day, troops formed squads and started training on 84 mm RL (rocket launcher). Some part of the area where they were training could be seen from the Pakistani post. Soon we found curious Pakistani troops peeking to see what we were doing. This continued the next day too. Now most would know that Pakistani soldiers generally wear civvies while at posts (to pass off as civilians). So it surprised us to see them in uniform on the third day. Maybe some visit was taking place, we thought. However, the next day, my senior JCO conveyed a request from the Pakistani soldiers — stop the training!

Apparently, at night, a Pakistani sentry had yelled across in Punjabi: “Oye band karo eh...” Loosely translated, his message was: “You guys have no work? Ever since you have started this, even our chaps have got enthused. So our training is also on. Tell your company commander to stop it!”

A few days later, the situation deteriorated due to a stray incident and firing commenced. It carried on for days. Now most Pakistani officers don’t stay at posts which are commanded by JCOs; officers come only if the situation becomes tense. One fine day, a JCO commanding a small outpost said he knew for certain a Pakistani officer was now at the post opposite his.

“How do you know that for certain?” I asked. “A young-looking man in a track suit is roaming all over their post. This morning he was peeking at our post through binos. I called out to him to say let’s not fire at each other since both would suffer losses.”

“So how does that make him an officer?” I asked. “Saab, he said ‘shut up’ and walked away — he is definitely an officer!”

In Op Parakram, my battalion was deployed on the IB near Kathua (J&K). There was a stalemate in the situation. That year (2002) the Natwest Tri-series (England, Sri Lanka and India) was conducted in England. India reached the finals and it was an epic match with England where we chased down 325 runs, from a pretty impossible situation (thanks to Kaif and Yuvraj). One company commander decided to share this celebration with the Pakistanis. He instructed his sentry to fire a small LMG burst across, at no target in particular. So far neither side had fired at each other after the initial deployment eight months ago. I let this act pass off as a one-time euphoric outburst after a win (and some drinks).

The Pakistanis did not respond then. Three weeks later, the same company commander reported a burst aimed at an isolated location. I was going through the papers and read that the Pakistani hockey team had won an Asian tournament!

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