Heaviest cross-border firing since 1971 war, India lodges protest with Pakistan

NEW DELHI/JAMMU: India on Tuesday lodged a protest with Pakistan over escalating border ceasefire violations in the “heaviest” cross-border firing since the 1971 India-Pakistan war even as the two countries agreed to hold flag meetings to defuse the situation.

The protest was lodged during the telephonic talks between the DGMOs (director general military operations) of the two countries, Army sources said in Delhi, adding it was held around 1200 hours for about 10 minutes during which “all relevant issues” were raised.

During the talks, the Indian side is understood to have raised the issue of increasing ceasefire violations and lodged a protest over the issue, the sources said. There have been 95 ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the line of control (LoC) and it has also breached the ceasefire pact 25 times on the international border(IB).

“The two sides have agreed to hold flag meetings at field levels by both Army and BSF to defuse the situation,” the sources said.

The DGMOs — Lt Gen PR Kumar from India and Maj General Amir Riaz from Pakistan — discussed the border situation during their talks on hotline which takes place every Tuesday. The DGMOs hold talks every week during which they discuss issues related to the LoC and other areas.

A relative of a civilian killed in firing from the Pakistan side of the border.

The BSF said the firing by Pakistani forces in the last 45 days was possibly the “heaviest” since the 1971 war.

“Yes it is (the heaviest firing) for last so many years … I think may be after the 1971 war. 45 days is a very long period for this kind of thing to happen,” BSF director general DK Pathak told reporters in Jammu.

Giving details of the pattern of the firing, Pathak said, “As you are aware the firing took place for the last 45 days, to be more precise since the first incident of sniper took place on July 17 when a jawan died in the incident. It lasted for about 10 days or so. Then, there was a brief lull. This month, there was firing through out the nights and some times during day time also.”

A BSF jawan taking a position near the international border with Pakistan near Jammu.

The firing from across the border on all posts is going on, he said, adding firing is also targeting civilian areas.

‘Pakistan never turned up for flag meeting’

Asked about the decision to hold flag meetings at field levels by both Army and BSF to defuse the situation, Pathak said, “I hope peace prevails. We have made so many efforts …”

“We have made all possible efforts to stop it (ceasefire violations and firing). We tried four to five times to hold flag meetings. But they (the Pakistani side) did not respond to it … They never turned up,” Pathak said after a whirlwind visit to the forward areas along the IB.

Defence minister Arun Jaitley also held a meeting with the three services chiefs durign which they discussed the ceasefire violations by Pakistan and the Indian response.

The BSF chief visited several forward areas and met the jawans in a bid to boost their morale. He asked the jawans to give strong and befitting reply to the ceasefire violations.

“We have lodged with them protest notes 16 to 17 times after firing incidents and ceasefire violations,” Pathak said.

BSF director general DK Pathak interacts with a person injured in border shelling at Government Medical College Hospital in Jammu, on August 26, 2014.

Asked about the decision to hold flag meetings at field levels by both Army and BSF to defuse the situation, Pathak said, “I hope peace prevails. We have made so many efforts …”

“In fact, ever since this problem started as many as 16 attempts of contacting them over telephone through established channel of communication have been made. They only responded to the initial calls and thereafter they have not responded and there have been no initiation from their end,” he added.

BSF to get over 700 automatic firing systems

The Border Security Force, the country’s first line of defence along Pakistan, is set to modernize its war stores and acquire over 700 pieces of automated mortar firing systems which will enable its troops to launch accurate and lethal rocket strikes.

The largest border guarding force of India, which has close to 20 artillery units for combat duties along the western theatre, has decided to procure the most advanced “automated mortar fire direction controller” (AMFDC) which helps troops to fire targeted mortars and explosive shells on enemy positions.

A woman displays a mortar shell fired into a residential area from the Pakistan side at the India-Pakistan international border area of RS Pura, about 27 kilometres from Jammu, on August 22, 2014.

The system provides for an on-board fire control system that includes a command computer platform, navigation system, and gun pointing system. The device allows military crews to fire in less than a minute’s time as compared to the current five-six minutes and the accuracy of the hit gets enhanced by four to five times.

The device is used in modern warfare by armies as it reduces the exposure time of the crew and troops thereby securing them in a war zone.

The BSF, sources said, has got sanction from the government to procure 769 such pieces which will be subsequently deployed at BSF locations along the India-Pakistan border.

The development assumes significance as the force is facing the brunt of the recent spate of ceasefire violations and unprovoked firing from across Pakistan.

“This is a part of the modernization plan of the BSF which is the first responder in case of a war with Pakistan. During peace time like now, the BSF operates under the operational command of the Army and is the first line of defence for enemy onslaught,” a senior official said.

The force, according to a blueprint prepared in this regard, is wanting to modernise the medium-range guns and other mortar shelling weapons possessed by it and these need to be put on a digital and electronic platform on the lines of the Army so that in any exigency or emergency the force could respond effectively.