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The Indian Army on Wednesday carried out a massive counter assault using heavy mortar fire on Pakistani posts along the Line of Control, making good its promise of “heavy retribution” for the beheading of an Indian soldier on Tuesday. Even as Pakistan continued to violate the ceasefire, the armed forces launched crippling attacks on Pakistani posts in Poonch, Rajouri, Kel and Machil sectors.

Pakistan committed ceasefire violations in Bhimber Gali, Krishna Ghati and Nowshera sectors of Kashmir. Terrorists actively backed by the Pakistan army killed two soldiers and beheaded one soldier in gross violation of the Geneva Convention. “Retribution will be heavy for this cowardly act of mutilating a soldier’s body,” the Army said yesterday. The Army destroyed four Pakistan army posts with massive fire assaults after an Indian soldier was beheaded October 28, in a similar border action team (BAT) operation.

A BAT typically consists of terrorists working in close conjunction with Pakistan army regulars for tactical operations against Indian troops and posts along the 778km Line of Control (LoC). The three slain soldiers from 57 Rashtriya Rifles were in the lead of a counter-infiltration patrol when the patrol was ambushed by terrorists ahead of the LoC fencing in the thickly-forested, mountainous Macchil sector in the morning.

Indian Army has retaliated the fire from the other side
Indian Army has retaliated the fire from the other side

“The Pakistan army simultaneously opened fire at our patrol. Once the situation stabilised, the three bodies were found in the search operation… one was badly mutilated,” said an army officer.  “Condemn the cowardly and brutal killing of our soldiers, and mutilation of one of them. Salute these brave martyrs for their supreme sacrifice,” tweeted Defence minister Manohar Parrikar.

Since the October 28 beheading of a soldier , the Army has been conducting targeted fire assaults with heavy-calibre weapons, including artillery guns, 120mm mortars and anti-tank guided missiles, to inflict heavy casualties on the Pakistan army by flattening some of its forward posts and bunkers.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has formed a committee “to counter India’s propaganda campaign” and has already taken steps to reach out to Indians “opposed to Narendra Modi’s extremism” Dawn reported on Wednesday.

“Our missions abroad, including in New Delhi, are making outreach efforts to emphasise the extremist Indian policies,” foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz told the Pakistani Senate yesterday, according to the newspaper.

Aziz also said the Pakistan’s information technology ministry will prepare a “comprehensive strategy” to highlight the “Jammu and Kashmir dispute” via social media. The committee that will include top military, defence and intelligence officials is also expected to formulate “a doable and sustainable India-Kashmir policy”, Aziz told the Senate yesterday.

Another associated committee, chaired by the information secretary, has been formed to prepare fact sheets, counter India’s propaganda campaign and design a media strategy to continuously highlight the Kashmiri freedom struggle, Aziz said. This committee also includes representatives from the ministries of defence, foreign affairs and information technology, as well as military and intelligence officials.

Aziz said that the role of international lobbyists had become crucial in order to project the country’s position and pursue foreign policy objectives and added that Pakistani missions abroad were also in close contact with the Pakistani and Kashmiri diaspora.

Aziz may also have acknowledged that India has had success in isolating Pakistan in the region , because he said Pakistan is doing its utmost to engage the international community, including regional partners, to counter India’s efforts.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has said that India is directly involved in sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan and also trying to destabilise the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

Speaking at the inaugural of two days international conference on ‘Strengthening Peace and Cooperation in South Asia: Incentives and Constraints’ organised by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute and the Hanns Seidel Foundation here on Tuesday, Aziz said the India’s bid to isolate Pakistan was only a myopic thinking and a futile attempt to assuage the local populace. “Pakistan cannot remain aloof to the imbalance of strategic stability created in the region due to the lopsided western policies.”

In an indirect reference to India, the adviser said the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) had fallen prey to hegemonic designs of one the regional countries. He; however, said Pakistan believed that SAARC had the potential to promote peace, development and stability in South Asia. India, he said, had increased ceasefire violations at the LoC to constrain Pakistan Army’s ability to deploy more resources on the western borders with Afghanistan. Aziz said India’s opposing of the CPEC was tantamount to obstruct economic development of Pakistan. He said Pakistan was exercising maximum restraint in the wake of region’s growing geo-strategic imbalance. He urged international community to adopt a balanced approach rather than taking sides.

He said the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) should adopt a non-discriminatory approach for membership of the countries, which had never been a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Former foreign minister Inamul Haq demanded dialogue between Pakistan and India without any conditions attached. He said terrorism was not in interest of any country.

Tension has been on the rise at the border
Tension has been on the rise at the border

In a related development, Indian army chief, Dalbir Singh Suhag met high-ranking officials of China’s People’s Liberation Army including Gen. Xu Qiliang, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, the highest military body under President Xi Jinping, on the first day of his four-day tour of China on Monday.

Both officials “reiterated their desire to keep up the momentum of defense exchanges and the need to keep the borders tranquil and peaceful,” the Indian Embassy in Beijing said in a statement. Singh invited Xu to visit India, which was accepted. Earlier, Singh was welcomed with a guard of honor led by General Li Zuocheng, Commander PLA Army.

Observers said Singh may have a strategic plan to discuss with China about terror attacks from across the Pakistan border and use of irregulars and non-state player by the Pakistani military, observers said. It is important for India to ensure that Chinese support for Pakistan in this crucial area is weakened, they said. The visit comes amid disturbances in India’s border with Pakistan and China, and reports that China is speeding up construction of a road, which will pass through the disputed Pakistan Occupied Kashmir area. New Delhi has serious objection to any construction work by China in POK, as it is claimed by India.

Singh is due to visit to major military commands in Xian and Nanjing and see the installations connected to PLA’s Infantry Division and Army Air Defence Brigades in these areas. His visit also coincides with a joint military exercise (Exercise Hand in Hand), between two armies which is underway in Pune and will be followed by the visit of General Zhao Zongqi, Commander, Western Theatre Command of PLA in the second week of next month.

But India has effective deterrence against both China and Pakistan, but while China’s nuclear weapons are a major strategic concern for India, Pakistan’s nuclear programme “remains a daily source of tactical worry” and both countries’ nuclear weapons programmes “are so closely linked… that they may effectively be treated as one”, former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon has said.

In his newly-published book “Choices” (Penguin), Menon, who served in the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, first as Foreign Secretary and then as NSA, says the Pakistan Army seems to believe, mistakenly though, that the country’s “nuclear shield permits Pakistan to undertake terrorist attacks on India without fear of retaliation”.

“In other words,” reiterated Menon, “Pakistani tactical nuclear weapons use would effectively free India to undertake a comprehensive first-strike against Pakistan” in what is perhaps the most clear enunciation of India’s nuclear doctrine to date by someone who has been closely involved in its policy making and implementation.