New Delhi, Aug 7 (IANS) With frequent border incursions being reported this year, many Indians have raised questions about the level and extent of border vigilance by the Indian Army at the LoC with experts suggesting that the rules of engagement and the existing patrol procedures may need to be reviewed.
These concerns were revived in wake of the audacious raid by Pakistani intruders Tuesday night that resulted in the death of five Indian soldiers.
Commodore (retd) C. Uday Bhaskar, former deputy director of the Institue of Defence Studies and Analyses, said the incident certainly raises concerns about our border vigilance and preparedness.
"This intrusion into Indian territory by any adversary who can actually kill or behead Indian troops is cause for concern," Bhaskar told IANS.
Bhaskar said it was time for the Indian Army to review its existing preparedness level at the 730 km-long LoC, the de facto border.
"The Indian Army will have to review its existing procedures/inventory/infrastructure/intelligence and plug the gaps. The LoC is very long and the topography does not allow for minute patrolling," he said.
He said the Indian Army should be given the "political support" to raise the costs to the adversary in limited sectors.
But he cautioned that Indian's response should not be "impulsive".
"..India must not be impulsive and driven by emotive nationalism. Long term objectives and the cost-benefit analysis must be kept in mind. And the language in public discourse must not be intemperate," he added.
A senior defence officer who spoke to IANS on condition of anonymity said he was convinced that to an extent there was "intelligence failure" that led to the attack.
"To some extent there was intelligence failure. Such a large number of terrorists can't infiltrate. Also, I am convinced that the infiltration was aided by the Pakistan regulars. It is not possible for 20 heavily armed terrorists to attack our patrol team. It was a planned incursion. And they knew about the patrol," said the officer, who has commanded a brigade on the LoC.
"I also feel that there should be a retaliation to this killing. The morale of the soldiers is shaken. As they know our weak points, we know their weak points too. We need to give them a strong message," the officer added.
Colonel (retd) P.N. Khera, editor of Asian Defence News International (ADNI), heartily agreed, saying that battalion commanders needed greater flexibility to react. It had happened when 16 Corps, in whose operational area the incident occurred, was commanded by Gen. K.V. Krishna Rao, who later rose to army chief.
When Gen. Krishna Rao questioned a local commander as to why there had been no retaliation, the reply he received was that permission had to come from the top and by the time this came, the intruders would have retreated, Khera said.
"Well, as your corps commander I am authorising you to retaliate if the situation so warrants," Khera recalled Gen. Rao as saying.
"After this had happened twice or thrice, the Pakistanis themselves asked for a flag meeting and it was all quiet after that," Khera added.
The incident was neither the first nor will be the last, said a former diplomatic official who also did not like to be named.
"In fact, the Indian nation is well advised to prepare itself for an increase rather than decrease of terrorist activities in foreseeable future, given clear trends in our neighbourhood, especially Afghanistan," he said.
He said legitimate questions may, however, be raised about the preparedness of our army and the rules of engagement under which it operates.
"People may wonder how the Army will protect the country when it cannot defend itself."
The latest incident was the worst border clash in Kashmir after January when two Indian soldiers were killed in Mendhar sector of the LoC. One of the soldiers was then beheaded while the body of the other was mutilated.
Since 2003, when India and Pakistan declared a ceasefire, the guns have mostly been silent on the LoC. But troops of the two countries sometimes exchange fire across a live border with tens of thousands of soldiers massed on either side where retaliatory firefights are common over trivial incidents.