“It is a hypothetical situation,” replied Lieutenant General Subrata Saha, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 15 Corps stationed in Srinagar, when asked what the army would do in case there is a high-profile terror attack along the Line of Control (LoC). Lt Gen Saha also refused to see a connection between the army’s strike inside Myanmar and the situation along the loc that runs through Jammu & Kashmir, with the territory on one side controlled by Pakistan since 1948.
“There is no correlation,” Lt General Saha tells TEHELKA. “What response we contemplate is clearly related to operational circumstances.”
The GOC’s restraint, however, was in stark contrast with gung-ho stance of Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore following the army’s hot pursuit of Northeastern insurgents in Myanmar after the deadly 4 June ambush on a convoy of the 6 Dogra regiment in Manipur’s Chandel district. Hours after the cross-border operation, Rathore said the strike was a “message to Pakistan” and groups harbouring “terror intent” towards India that “we will strike at a place and at a time of our choosing.” Moreover, choosing #ManipurRevenge and #56inchRocks as hashtags, he tweeted, “A salute to Indian Army for #ManipurRevenge strike. Massive political will displayed by our strong @PMOIndia @ narendramodi @manoharparrikar.”
The army in J&K, however, took care not to succumb to what former chief minister Omar Abdullah mocked as uncalled for “chest-thumping”. And the cross-border operation is being keenly discussed among the youth in the Valley and outside, with a war of words raging on social networking sites.
“India will never cross the LoC. Should it do so, it will be war with Pakistan,” read a Facebook post. A Kashmiri satirical website Dapaan mocked the Myanmar operation and the threats to Pakistan by running a story with the following headline: “India to attack Nepal now to send strong message to Pakistan.”
Many also raised doubts over whether the Myanmar operation even took place. “By the way who said there was an operation in Myanmar? Please check and correct your records,” someone posted on Facebook.
These casual denials about the Myanmar raid have not stopped people from wondering about a cross-LoC strike. After all, the loc has been a site of cross-border infiltration and numerous ambushes on security personnel. Last December, 11 armymen, including a Lt Colonel, and six militants were killed in an attack on the Uri camp. This March, a fidayeen squad in army fatigues stormed a police station in Jammu’s Kathua district, killing three security personnel and injuring 11, including a deputy superintendent of police.
Lending grist to fears of another spectacular militant strike are intelligence inputs suggesting that more and more local youth are now joining outlawed militant groups based across the LoC. According to an army estimate for 2014, around 70 young men from the Valley, the highest in the past few years, joined groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba.
However, army sources in the Valley reveal nothing, a stance that is at odds with their position on the need to retain the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in the state. “Nobody from the army will say a word on this,” says a senior army officer. He repeated the statement when asked if the army had carried out any cross-LoC strikes in the past two decades.
In 2013, though, the army had not denied reports of a raid across the LoC in Haji Pir sector in Uri. A Pakistani soldier Havildar Ghulam Mohiuddin, was killed in the attack that was carried out by the 161 Brigade on 6 January after Pakistanis objected to, and shelled the newly constructed bunkers on the Indian side, which they thought violated the 2005 agreement on maintaining the status quo on the LoC. This prompted Pakistan’s DGMO (Director-General of Military Operations) to lodge a protest with his Indian counterpart, followed by a counter-attack across the LoC on 8 January in which two Indian soldiers were killed. One of them, Lance Naik Hemraj, was beheaded.
Now, post Myanmar, there is intense, and often fearful, curiosity in the Valley over the prospect of a copycat crossborder raid in Kashmir. A single violent incident along the LoC, India’s most volatile frontier, could tilt the precarious balance and make New Delhi consider a “demonstrative response” as inevitable.
The army in Srinagar, though, seems to be in no mood to indulge such speculation. “To link Myanmar with the LoC will be professionally inappropriate. The response adopted is always determined by the particular operational situation,” asserts Lt General Saha.