In the last 10 days or so India has lost 10 soldiers in a terrorist attack. Both the incidents, Poonch first and then Rajauri, involved use of IEDs by the terrorists. While Poonch attack was a well planned ambush, after observing predictable movement of Indian soldiers; the Rajauri incident seems to be a deliberately planted information to lure soldiers into their 'killing Area'. These two events were deliberately planned and executed.
The message from both incidents is very clear, as one of my Kashmiri friends, Kalmuddin, from North Kashmir, had warned me during Kargil-99. To quote him, “If you add sugar to poison, it does not become a sweet dish. It remains poison. Should you consume it, it would kill you! Pakistan was pure poison for India. Talks or prospect of peace do not change its character. Should you hope for peace, it would only harm you. “Trust deficit with Pakistan is unbridgeable."
In his press conference, the other day, May 05, 2023 to be exact, India’s External Affairs Minister, S Jaya Shankar, had retorted to Pakistan Foreign Minister, Bilawal Bhutto’s reference to abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 A, “Wake Up! Smell the coffee”. But on its heels came Pakistani retort in the form of Rajauri terror attack , where by five Indian soldiers of Special forces were killed by terrorists. Pakistani retort might be in relation to forthcoming G-20 meeting in Srinagar on 20-22 May 2023. But its message had a wider meaning, saying, “Pakistan would never abandon sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir”. So, Rajauri incident of 04/05 May 2023 was a “wake up” call to India to realise its folly of peace with Pakistan. It is pure venom.
History of 75 years gives this testimony of Pakistan’s conduct vis-a-vis India. No pact and agreement was ever honoured by Pakistan, whether it was Shimla Agreement of July 1972 or Lahore Resolution of February 1999. It even refused to accept the terms of UN Resolution 648 of 13 August, 1948. Atal Bihari Vajpaee, Indian Prime Minister (PM) went to Lahore in February 1999, he was greeted with Kargil -99. Narender Modi, India’s PM went to Lahore in December 2015 to attend a family function of then Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharief. He was slammed with a suicidal attack on Pathankot Air Base.
Despite all this in Feb 2022, India had gone for a ceasefire on LC (Line of Control) in J&K. This was Pakistan’s urgent need and not India’s necessity. It had troubled borders with Afghanistan. It is believed that two NSAs had met in a friendly country to agree with “silent borders”. It is also rumoured, in Pakistan’s media, that India’s PM, Narender Modi had agreed to visit Pakistan. However the deal was turned down by Imran Khan, then Pakistan’s PM.
It is strange and annoying that time and again India falls for Pakistan’s glibber. It is not only politicians and bureaucracy but also military leaders, who overlook trust - deficit with Pakistan. “Silence of LC” in 2022 led to a sense of complacency amongst the soldiers too. Therefore all cautions and drills cum procedures were thrown to winds.
With the announcement of holding of G-20 meet in Srinagar between 20-22 May 2023, army should have been more vigilant. But the Poonch and Rajauri incidents show, it was not so. It is a known principle of counter- insurgency, whenever one lowers guard, tragedy takes place. This is what has happened in the two cases.
Rajauri incident, right on the heels of Poonch Incident, speaks volumes on the race to “glory” in the counter -insurgency environments. It is truism that Counter-Insurgency Areas have become a “Glamour Bazar” for officers, COs and Commanders, where gallantry awards; prestigious courses like NDC/ HDMC/LDMC and promotions are on sale. Thus, there is a race for quick results.
It is felt, almost a hunch, that militants, may be backed by BAT (Border Action Team) had lured our soldiers into a trap, by deliberately planting a false information. They achieved the “kill” by blasting the IED (Indigenous Explosive Device). The area of suspected movement was known to be thickly vegetated forest of “Kandi" Area. It is ought to be seen as to what were the approach roads to the area. There was no encounter but a simple blast, as the soldiers neared the suspected hide.
It is essential to note as to who provided information. Was it from higher HQ? In any case employment of SF can not be done without clearance from Higher HQ, at least Div HQ or Corps HQ. It remains to be seen who had fed this information to controlling HQ? May be it might not come out because Court of Inquiry will white wash this. However, controlling HQ cannot wish away the blame. Hunch is that information was not properly evaluated by the people whose job it was. So, “sacrificial goats” were pushed into action.
Controlling HQ should have been more careful in deliberately planning the operation, particularly after the Poonch attack. It is important to recall that IED was also used in Poonch incident. This gives rise to the doubt that alleged militants did not want to get involved in a fire- fight. It was a “blast & escape” tactics in both cases. It is in this context that it was suspected to be a BAT action. Though it is claimed that it was an act of a new wing of LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiyaba) but it does not matter, Pak army will never admit that it was involved.
“Blast & Scoot” seems to be new favourite tactics of militants mixed with BAT . It is to create maximum impact. More such attack might be expected in this area. It seems, valley was becoming difficult for them to operate. Therefore to divert attention and thin out the valley, Pak army was targeting peripheral areas, such as Poonch - Rajauri. It is time for the army to wake up and “smell the coffee”.
In final analysis, one can say that Poonch mishap was the result of sense of complacency, which led to single administrative vehicle plying on the road. It was the predictability of such movements, observed and reconnoitred by militants, over days, which led to killing of soldiers as sitting ducks. The Rajauri incident is due to failure of proper evaluation of incoming information, particularly when it was known that the Kandi forest was infested with militants.
May be it is due to failure of counter - intelligence. As a passing reference, do the army and Government of India realise the damage accruing due to the disbandment of “Technical Support Division” (TSD) of Col Honey Bakshi? It was doing an excellent job in Kashmir, but it fell victim to slugfest of Politico- military set up. It was accused of spying on Government and officials. Anyway, its absence is causing horrendous incidents in the valley!
(Col. Rajinder Kushwaha is an ex-NDA, commissioned into 3 Bihar. He is a battle-hardened veteran who served in ’71 War & has operated extensively in various insurgency environs across the country. He is a renowned author, and a highly respected defence & national security expert writing for several reputed publications such as ‘Defence and Security Alert’ (DSA), the ‘Indian Defence Review’ (IDR) among others. You can reach him on Twitter: @RajeeKushwaha, Email ID: [email protected])
(Views expressed are the authors own, and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India')
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