LoC ‘DE-ESCALATION’

Under Global Scrutiny And Financial Pressure, Pakistan Changes Tack Along LoC

Surya Gangadharan New Delhi 6 May 2019

There has been no action by the Border Action Team (BAT) of the Pakistan Army since the suicide attack on the CRPF vehicle in Pulwama in February. BAT comprises small groups of commandos who cross the Line of Control and ambush Indian Army patrols or strike static pickets.

Sources in New Delhi told SNI that the absence of BAT attacks forms part of a larger pattern of Pakistani behaviour visible since the Indian air strikes on the Balakot terror camp in Pakistan.

“De-escalation is how we would define it,” said the source, adding that “Pakistan appears keen on de-escalating the situation along the Line of Control since Balakot. So, along with the absence of BAT attacks, mortar and small arms fire have also fallen steeply.”

The sources confirmed that ceasefire violations by Pakistan have fallen—from 860 in 2017 to 1629 in 2018 and 928 so far this year. The violations could cross last year’s figures when the final tally is made seven months from now but sources indicated the Indian Army is responding heavily to every violation and “firing for effect”.

“Our aim is clear,” said sources, “we don’t want the Pakistanis to build or add to any infrastructure that would help BAT attacks. Nor should terrorists be allowed to move around freely.”

Terrorist attempts at infiltration have fluctuated—from 87 in 2017, 1864 in 2018 to 19 this year. The number of terrorists killed has also reduced, only 71 have been killed so far this year (213 were killed in 2017 and 254 in 2018). Incidentally, the Samba Corridor, which is a major infiltration route, has been largely free of terrorist movement so far.

“Own casualties have also come down, 59 were killed in 2017, 61 in 2018 and 14 so far this year,” sources said.

The “cooling off” of the Line of Control suggests Pakistan is under pressure, not just militarily but also diplomatically. Even as the Financial Action Task Force deliberates on whether to black list Islamabad for terror funding and the International Monetary Fund mulls lending more money to that virtually bankrupt country, pressure could be building on another front.

The latest annual report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged the State Department to designate Pakistan (and nine other countries including Iran and Saudi Arabia) as “Tier 1 Country of Particular Concern (CPC)”.

The commission has been monitoring Pakistan since 2002 “for ongoing systematic egregious” violations of religious freedom. Last year, Islamabad was designated a CPC. If it is elevated to Tier 1, there could be U.S. sanctions on government and other agencies and even officials for violating religious freedoms.

Clearly, with so much at stake, the Pakistani Army is making tactical shifts, especially on the Line of Control. The sense is if Prime Minister Imran Khan is able to bring financial stability with international loans, the army may get back to “bleeding India by a thousand cuts”. This would obviously comprise some of the tried and tested activities, including use of terrorist proxies.

But the Balakot strike reportedly came as a shock to Pakistan’s army brass. They may well be relooking their options and exploring new ones. Either way, India has to keep its guard up.

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