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Analysis of Sansad TV Discussion: ”The LOC Challenge”

Relevance

”GS 2: India and its Neighbourhood, Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India’s Interests”

Introduction

  • India shares a 3,323 km border with Pakistan. The border is divided into three parts
  • First is the International Border (IB), which stretches for approximately 2,400 km from Gujarat to the north banks of Chenab in Akhnoor in Jammu.
  • Second is the Line of Control (LoC), which is 740 km long and runs from parts of Jammu to parts of Leh. It is a ceasefire line that came into existence after the 1948 and 1971 wars between India and Pakistan. It was delineated in the Simla Agreement (July 1972) whereby both sides agreed not to alter it unilaterally.
  • The third is the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL), which divides the current position of Indian and Pakistani troops in the Siachen region. It is 110 km long and extends from NJ 9842 to Indira Col in the north.

How does India Manage Indo-Pak Border?

  • Border management involves facilitating the legitimate cross-border flow of people and trade while concurrently preventing the entry of persons or goods that pose a threat to the country or its population.
  • Given the difference in the status of the IB, the LoC and the AGPL, there is a slight difference in the management of these three lines.
  • The IB is a normal boundary line and has in place mechanisms to guard the border against illegal trespassing as well as to regulate the legal flow of trade and travel across it. It is guarded by the Border Security Force (BSF) and has land custom stations and immigration check posts to allow entry and exit of passengers and cargo. The administration of IB is the responsibility of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
  • The LoC and AGPL are military held lines and therefore their defence is the responsibility of the Indian Army and the Ministry of Defence (MoD). While no movement of people is possible across the AGPL, travel and trade across the LoC were allowed from 2005 and 2008, respectively.
  • Special permits are issued to facilitate the movement of passengers and goods across the LoC, but such movements are highly restricted both in terms of frequency and volume. The MHA is in-charge of the management of cross-LoC trade and travel.

Challenges at LOC

  • India faces a challenging environment on the LoC. India faces a dual-threat of infiltration by terrorists and LoC violations by regulars. This forces the army to deploy for both contingencies. This is not the ideal way of deploying in the area, as the method attempts to do both the tasks well, which is not possible.
  • On the other hand, Pakistan does not face similar threats from India.
  • The geography of the area makes manning the LoC very difficult, especially during bad weather.
  • The LoC does not run in a straight line. Its curvaceous nature leads to the creation of avenues for easy infiltration.
  • Pakistan continuously attempts to maintain instability on the LoC, as it is a convenient sub-conventional advantage it has.

How to create disincentives for PAK?

  • In view of these circumstances, the following can be done to create disincentives for Pakistan.
  • First, there should be a declaratory policy of measured response to any violation of ceasefire on the LoC. This will create caution against misadventures.
  • Second, the retaliatory action should be punitive and a lesson for future.
  • Third, a clear escalation ladder should be war-gamed to ensure that actions remain within it.
  • Fourth, the threat of border actions, infiltration and raids must be as probable for Pakistan as it is for India to keep opposing forces unstable.
  • Fifth, our forces should be equipped and maintained with the best technology and weapons to create an edge on the LoC.

Will the current ceasefire last?

  • The decision by India and Pakistan to ‘cease firing along the Line of Control (LoC) and all other sectors’, with effect from the midnight of February 25, 2021, is being seen as an important thaw in the bilateral relationship that was at an all-time low.
  • The decision came about after talks between the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMO’s) of both countries.
  • This joint statement is the first such understanding between India and Pakistan in nearly two decades, after the 2003 ceasefire agreement.
  • So, this is not the first time that India and Pakistan have agreed to give peace a chance on the LoC to make the lives of civilians living along the line easy. The original ceasefire agreement was reached in November 2003, four years after the Kargil War.
  • The 2003 ceasefire agreement remains a milestone as it brought peace along the LoC until 2006. Between 2003 and 2006, not a single bullet was fired by the jawans of India and Pakistan.
  • It is this ceasefire agreement that is referred to as having been violated whenever Pakistan fires at Indian posts along the LoC.
  • But since 2006, ceasefire violations became the norm with increasing frequency.
  • Recent years have seen an increasing number of ceasefire violations despite an agreement reached in 2018 to adhere to the 2003 ceasefire agreement.
  • In 2018, more than 2,000 ceasefire violations were recorded. The number of ceasefire violations increased to over 3,400 in 2019 and over 5,000 in 2020. A total of over 14,000 ceasefire violations have taken place since 2006. In 2021, Pakistan has already violated the ceasefire close to 600 times before coming to present peace talks.

How Indian Army Retaliate against any cross border misadventure?

Troops deployed on forward posts enjoy complete freedom of action in responding to Pakistan Cease Fire Violations (CFVs). Substantial damage was inflicted on Pakistan posts and personnel during retaliation by the Indian Army.

Which Counter Infiltration Strategy Adopted?

  • Indian Army & Border Security Force have adopted a robust counter-infiltration strategy that has an appropriate mix of technology and human resource to check infiltration effectively.
  • Innovative troop deployment, proactive use of surveillance and monitoring devices and the Anti-Infiltration Obstacle System have enhanced the ability to detect and intercept terrorists attempting to infiltrate/exfiltrate.
  • Issues of infiltration / suspicious activity close to the border are taken up regularly with Pakistan authorities at the appropriate level through the established mechanism of hotlines, flag meetings as well as talks between the Director-General of Military Operations of the two countries.
  • BSF, too, holds regular talks at various levels with its counterpart viz. Pakistan Rangers.

Technological Advancement for strengthening border security

  • The Army has significantly improved its electronic surveillance along the Line of Control (LoC) to check infiltration, and work on converting the existing border fence into a smart fence integrated with several sensors is underway,
  • However, there is a rethink on converting the entire fence over a 700 km stretch into a smart one due to the high cost. A hybrid model is now being adopted.
  • The fence will be integrated with LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors, infrared sensors and cameras among others.
  • In recent months, the Army has beefed up troops close to the LoC to plug gaps and it has resulted in a drop in infiltration this year.
  • While the multi-tier anti-infiltration grid remains in place, the first tier has been strengthened. Troops have also been given drones, both big and small, to monitor the ground.

Why India is averse to UNMOGIP?

  • The UNMOGIP was established after the cessation of hostilities in 1949. It was mandated to monitor the ceasefire between India and Pakistan.
  • However, the mission lost its relevance after the 1972 Shimla Agreement, wherein both India and Pakistan agreed to resolve their differences bilaterally.
  • Pakistan has since gone back on this Agreement and has time and again referred to the UN resolution of 1948 and 1949. It has also attempted to internationalise the Kashmir issue at every possible bilateral and multilateral forum. Pakistan’s reference to UNMOGIP, therefore, should be seen in this context.

Way Forward

  • Technical solutions are necessary to augment and complement the traditional methods of border guarding.
  • They not only enhance the surveillance and detection capabilities of the border guarding forces but also improve the impact of the border guarding personnel against infiltration and trans-border crimes.
  • However, caution must be exercised while advocating the use of high-tech and high-cost electronic devices for border security.
  • Instead of high-cost and innovative technological solutions that require extensive technical expertise, a judicious mix of properly trained manpower and affordable and tested technology is likely to yield better results.

Conclusion

The government’s consistent position has been that India desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan and is committed to addressing issues, if any, bilaterally and peacefully in an atmosphere free of terror, hostility and violence. The onus is on Pakistan to create such a conducive atmosphere by taking credible, verifiable and irreversible action to not allow any territory under its control to be used for cross-border terrorism against India in any manner. India and Pakistan should continue to maintain regular channels of communication through the respective High Commissions and other established mechanisms.

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