Pakistan, emboldened by U.S. President Donald Trump’s unsolicited offer to mediate in the Kashmir issue, is planning to up the ante in Jammu and Kashmir in the coming days, informed sources have said.
Soon after the Trump-Imran Khan meeting in the White House and the Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Qamar Bajwa’s meetings in the Pentagon, Indian Intelligence started picking up chatter about a possible Pulwama-type attack in the Kashmir Valley and ‘lighting up,’ of the LoC. Specific inputs about an attack on the Amarnath Yatra—since called off—raised an alarm in Delhi.
An Indian assessment concluded that the Pakistan Army HQ in Rawalpindi felt that a spectacular, headline-grabbing terrorist strike would force a hard Indian response—a la Balakot or like the post-Uri surgical strike—with an inbuilt escalation potential, instantly inviting American intervention.
Simultaneously, on ground sources in Pak-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) also reported increased movement and presence of well-armed foot soldiers of JeM, LeT etc in the launch pads abandoned post-Pulwama. They were moved out at that time in anticipation of Indian retaliation. On 30 July, an escalation was noticed in cross-border firing when the Pakistan army used higher calibre weapons. There was appropriate retaliation from the Indian side but Pakistan’s intent was clear: Heat up the LoC, forcing India to respond in kind and then present the heightened tension to show itself as a victim of Indian aggression.
GHQ’s changed tactics comes on the back of recent change of stand indicated by Trump. Pakistan sees an opportunity to create a situation in J&K and along the LoC that would have the world worried enough to intervene.
In anticipation of a reckless attack in J&K, the Centre, as a precautionary measure, moved additional central armed police forces last week to plug the gaps in the security grid. Moreover, additional forces were needed to secure vital installations before 15 August.
Additionally, having changed the template in 2016 and taken it to the next level in Balakot, India’s security managers didn’t want to limit the response to any Pakistani mischief to just defensive measures. Pro-active, pre-emptive steps have also been planned to meet the challenge.
What those will be and when they will be taken are obviously matters of operational secrecy. There is no doubt, however, that many lessons learnt in the wake of Uri, Pulwama and Balakot have been studied in depth so as not to repeat mistakes.