Rocket attacks originating in Pakistani break the ceasefire twice in three months
“In a rare incident of its kind on the international border,” reports Pakistan’s Dawn, “the Indian forces opened fire from across the Wagah border on Friday night after mistaking an unexplained explosion in a village in East Punjab for ‘rocket fire from Pakistan.” It goes on to quote anonymous analysts who suggest that “the Indian allegation as an attempt to create an impression that Pakistan was still aiding terrorists and not taking steps to check their activities.” The Pakistani Rangers’ spokesman goes further: they were rockets and they were fired “on the Pakistani side”.
It’s a familiar story. The attacks didn’t happen. Those Indians want to blame Pakistan. And oh, the attacks did happen and the Indians did it themselves.
But when at least three 107mm rockets land in Indian villages across the international border in Punjab twice in three months it is serious. It is a violation of the ceasefire, but it is a different kind of violation of the ceasefire. In all likelihood, these rockets were fired by the jihadi component of Pakistan’s military-jihadi complex. It might be a worrying sign of something this blog had warned of in July 2006—that India might face a similar situation as Israel does with Lebanon. Just as Hizbullah, a ‘non-state actor’ fires rockets at Israel from Lebanese territory, the Lashkar-e-Taiba could attack Indian civilian targets from Pakistan. [Related Link: See the War Nerd’s take on rockets in the hands of Iraqi insurgents]
After yesterday’s rocket attack, the Border Security Force retaliated with machine-gun fire, not a particularly effective or meaningful response, given that the rockets might have been fired from mobile launchers and timed or triggered remotely. Raising the issue at field commanders’ meetings will not work given the mindset of the Pakistani authorities. On a broader level, the Pakistani government is quite likely to put up its hands and say that it too “is a victim of terrorism” and it is doing all it can.
An ideal way to prevent such attacks is to strike at the supply-chain of these rockets—but that requires the Pakistani government to search for, confiscate and secure rockets on its side of the border. But that’s like asking the dentist for a candy bar. Getting the Pakistani government to do this needs a mix of coercion and diplomacy on the part of the UPA government. That too is like asking the dentist for a candy bar.
The other option is for India to increase surveillance and intelligence gathering along the border. This might mean equipping the BSF with more advanced surveillance capabilities—including a number of weapons-locating radars (WLRs). When combined with good intelligence, it might even be possible to detect, prepare for and retaliate against future rocket attacks. Indeed, it is better that India equips the BSF with the requisite retaliatory capacity now than wait for a rocket spectacular to happen.