On April 20, 2023, some five to six terrorists, ambushed an army truck in Poonch area and killed 5 soldiers. The vehicle was moving from Bhimber Gali to Poonch in Rajauri Sector. It belonged to a Rashtriya Rifles Battalion. It is learnt that the ambushed truck was carrying food supplies, including kerosine oil. The well -trained terrorists (I won’t be surprised if the ambush team was mixed with the members of BAT — Border Action Team of Pakistan’s Special Service) had blocked the road with the wooden logs. As soon as two soldiers got down to remove the logs, they were fired upon and killed.
It seems the truck went up in flames due to kerosine oil. Other three soldiers too got killed and one soldier got critically injured. Indian military sources want to white wash their negligence by saying that constant rain and bad weather had helped the perpetrators of this ambush. It is a lame excuse. To keep crowing that Pakistan based terrorist groups were behind this ambush, serves no purpose. Even an infant in India knows it. What is needed was to know as to how are such acts facilitated by our own acts of omission and commission.
It is alleged that there were two/ three LeT terrorists and some local supporters. However, Jaish-e-Mohammad’s proxy outfit People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF) has claimed responsibility for this attack. I am of the view that this ambush, even if terrorist had carried out, it was planned and coordinated by Pakistan Army. It was a deliberately planned and executed ambush by the specially trained ‘irregular soldiers’, who might belong to Pakistan elite special force. The planning, conduct and the military elan with which the ambushed was conducted, including the place and obstacle on the road and also fire control, indicate that it was the job of Pakistan military.
Why would Pakistan military do so? It had to justify its stance before Chief Justice of Pakistan, where, its three senior officers, namely, DG ISI, DG MO and DG MI had told him a few days back that Pakistan anticipated an attack threat from India. Why was it said? The reason quoted by Pakistan army was India’s desire to exploit political turmoil in the country. It quoted statements of Raj Nath Singh, Defence Minister and Amit Shah, Home Minister that India wanted to annex Pakistan occupied/administered Kashmir.
It might be also noted that Pakistan has been in a political and economic crisis for almost one year. Imran Khan, erstwhile Prime Minister (PM) of Pakistan has been demanding immediate assembly elections in the state of Punjab for almost a year. He was earlier deposed, as PM, in April 2022. But it is no doubts that he was the most popular leader in Pakistan and he can win hands down, may be by 2/3rd majority.
His popularity creates discomfort for the present Government of Pakistan, led by Shehbaj Sharief, who has been reluctant to conduct elections, fearing total rout for his own party (PML- N). Accordingly, Imran Khan had approached Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan. Election Commission of Pakistan was ordered by SC to conduct elections on May 14, 2023. Election commission then demanded about ₹ 21 Billion and around four Lakh security personnels to conduct elections. Both requirements were refused by the Shehbaj Sharief Government.
SC had, then, asked army to provide security force to conduct elections. Consequently, Army had told Chief Justice in camera that the army was engaged in national security operations. It talked of dealing with the terrorist threat in the West and also to cater for a danger of war with India. This definitely was a non- existent threat. But DG ISI, DGMI and DGMO of Pak army had put across this view. To prove so, this action by Terrorists /BAT was ordered to provoke India to launch a retaliatory attack, which undoubtedly can happen.
Another reason for Pakistan military to take this action is the forthcoming G-20 meet in Srinagar in September 2023. Pakistan military and its defence analysts think that holding of G-20 meeting in Srinagar would legitimise India’s claim that Jammu & Kashmir was integral and an inseparable part of India. Pakistan fears if it happens, it would lose its justification for occupying parts of J&K. The fact is that Kashmir claim was jugular vein of Pakistan Military. Should the claim become redundant, Pak military loses its domination and control of public life in Pakistan. Therefore, Pak military would never allow a thaw in Indo-Pak relations.
It is in Pak military’s DNA to disallow any normalisation between India and Pakistan. Pakistan public has been stuffed with so much hatred of India over the last 75 years, that they only ogle venom against India. It serves Military purpose. It has also become a USP of Pak politicians to refuse to accept any assistance from India, even during Crisis. In the year 2022, Pakistan was tormented by massive floods. Some 3.3 million people were rendered homeless. Narender Modi, PM of India rang up Pak PM Shehbaj Sharief and offered help. He outrightly rejected, though he was begging UNO and rest of the World. I am reminded of a Kashmiri friend, Kalmuddin, who once told me during Kargil-99 Conflict : If you add sugar to poison, it does not make a sweet dish. If you consume, you will die. According to Kalmuddin, Pakistan was pure venom for India. To trust Pakistan would be akin to consuming poison. The after effect is obvious.
While Pak military cannot be trusted, is it right to lower one’s guard? This ambush is a result of not only lowering guard but also a sense of complacency creeping into security forces. Bhimber Gali area is an hotspot for terror activities. In January 2023, already a terror attack had taken place in the area. It is an area South of the Pir Panjal region. It is a mountainous stretch that divides the Kashmir valley from the Jammu region. It has been a hotbed of infiltration in the past. To be complacent in such an area is to invite trouble, serious trouble.
If it was raining heavily or the visibility was poor, why was a single administrative vehicle sent? It is suicidal, more so, when it was known that area was known for easy infiltration. Bad weather is a bonus for terrorist activities. What is obvious that a proper recce must have been done by the terrorists over a few days. They must have also made observation on the move of a single vehicle daily for rations and other supplies. The target was clearly chosen.
All said and done, the unfortunate loss of life of our soldiers was due to sheer breach of laid down drills and procedures. Such mishaps do take place, when soldiers/units become predictable. This allows insurgents/militants to seize initiative.
Somehow it is the vanity of the soldiers that they forget the cardinal principle of counter militancy/insurgency that insurgents/militants need only one chance to succeed. After their failed attempt to assassinate Margret Thatcher, ex PM of Britain, Irish terrorists had told her: “You have to succeed every time, we have to succeed only once".
It seems Rashtriya Rifles battalion had ignored this lesson. It is more appalling because the area of Bhimber Gali does not allow this liberty. This is an area south of Pir Panjal range, which is becoming hub of infiltration due to tight security measures in the area North of Pir Panjal.
The ambush site is seven KMs from Bhimber Gali at the LoC. This is why I do suspect that some elements of BAT might be involved, if it was not a full BAT action. Further, it is a known fact that the area on the Indian side of the LoC has a thick jungle. It provides sanctuary to the terrorists. They can recce and lie dormant for some days. It is all the more reason that unit should have followed known drills. A proper inquiry would bring out the cause of negligence. There is no harm in calling a spade a spade.
(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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