New Delhi (Sputnik): India has said that it lost four of its soldiers when Pakistan Rangers fired missiles and other long-range weapons at Indian forward posts at the Bhimber Gali sector of the Line of Control (de facto border) on Sunday.
This was the first time that any of the sides resorted to the firing of long-range weapons since heavy cross firing began in November 2017.
"Pakistan Army initiated unprovoked and indiscriminate firing of small arms, automatics, mortars, and missiles from 3.30 pm (on Sunday) in Bhimber Gali sector along the Line of Control (LoC)", Colonel NN Joshi, defense spokesman at Northern Command Headquarters of the Indian Army told the media.
GOC @Whiteknight_IA & all ranks salute the Bravehearts who made the supreme sacrifice in Bhimber Gali Sector on 04 Feb 2018 & offer condolences to their families @adgpi @NorthernComd_IA @SpokespersonMoD pic.twitter.com/Jk7T2vHZpz— White Knight Corps (@Whiteknight_IA) February 5, 2018
Official data from both India & Pakistan show that violation of the ceasefire, which was agreed upon in 2003, has witnessed more casualties in the last few months on both sides than at any other time in the last 14 years.
Pakistan Rangers and India's Border Security Force had agreed in November 2017 that the "spirit" of the 2003 Ceasefire Agreement would be revived to "protect innocent lives," but have failed to implement the resolution.
Is the situation indicative of a full-blown military conflict between India and Pakistan? Sputnik spoke to Maj Gen Dhruv C Katoch (retired), Director of the India Foundation think tank.
Sputnik: Indian forces have been outmaneuvered by the Pakistani Rangers this time despite India's firepower superiority. Why?
Maj Gen Dhruv C Katoch: India is not on the back foot, as far as the present standoff on the LoC is concerned. For the first time, Pakistani aggression is being responded to in kind, which has had serious repercussions for the Pakistan military. Their army and other security forces have suffered heavy casualties due to Indian counteraction, which has resulted in both the Pakistan military establishment as well as its political leadership seeking the initiation of talks to defuse the tension on the border.
Sputnik: Pakistan has begun targeting Indian posts with missiles. Is this a clear indication that the situation has moved beyond the usual exchange of fire between troops?
Maj Gen Dhruv C Katoch: As of now, the engagements across the LoC are with weapons held at the unit level. It can be ratcheted up by India, if required, to increase the costs for Pakistan for pushing terrorists into India. As of now, escalation appears unlikely.
Sputnik: What according to you are the reasons behind Pakistan's aggressive posturing?
Maj Gen Dhruv C Katoch: Pakistan's aggressive posturing is an indication that they are losing the plot in stoking disturbances in J&K. 2017 has been the defining year when the state of J&K showed signs of the return to normalcy. This trend will get magnified in 2018 and 2019. Once peace sets in, it would be difficult for Pakistan to stoke violence.
Sputnik: Do you see an international angle to this sudden escalation of conflict?
Maj Gen Dhruv C Katoch: The international angle is Chinese support to Pakistan, which in a manner of speaking is China using Pakistan as its proxy, to engage India.
The views and opinions expressed by Maj Gen Dhruv C Katoch in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the position of Sputnik.