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Pakistan’s Motives for Escalation of Border Clashes on India’s Jammu International Border

Paper No. 5858                                 Dated 12-Jan-2015

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Pakistan seems to have gone on an overdrive in conflict-escalation since about August 2014 and more from October 2014 in terms of border clashes along the International Border stretch of India’s Jammu & Kashmir State.

Border clashes along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir have been a part of Pakistan Army’s regular strategy ever since the ceasefire understanding of 2004 was broken in 2007. It would be recalled that India’s boundaries with Pakistan in Jammu & Kashmir State can be divided into three distinct sectors. The International Border sector in the South extends for nearly 200 kilometres from Kathua westwards to Sangam, West of Akhnoor. From Sangam the Line of Control runs for nearly 800 kilometres northwards to NJ 9842 and thereafter runs the Actual Ground Position Line along the glacial heights of the Sia Chin sector.

India mans the International Border sector in Jammu with its Border Security Force holding a line of border police outposts. The Line of Control sector is highly fortified and manned by regular Army formations of the Indian Army. The same pattern of manning also applies to the Actual Ground Position Line in the Sia Chin sector.

In earlier years too Pakistan indulged in border clashes along the Jammu International Border which Pakistan recently has started terming it as the Working Boundary betraying its coming intentions.  However the intensity and magnitude of its provocative border clashes has considerably increased.

Significantly, Pakistan Army earlier targeted India’s Border Security Force posts to facilitate the infiltration of its Islamic Jihadi terrorists but now the focus has shifted to also shelling Indian border villages inflicting casualties on innocent civilian lives as well as material damage on rural population centres. This is a nasty escalation by Pakistan.

Many reasons can be attributed for Pakistan Army’s new switch to escalating conflict on Jammu’s International Border with Pakistan besides elsewhere along the Line of Control.

The first reason that comes to mind is that Pakistan does not seem to be comfortable with the idea that a sizeable section of the Indian State of Jammu, Kashmir &Ladakh is outside the purview of a “disputed border” as it ii stands established and recognised as an International Border. This carries serious implications for Pakistan’s dubious claims over the whole of Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh State.

The second reason as to why Pakistan Army is giving extraordinary escalation of border clashes in the International Border stretch of Jammu & Kashmir State is that it is a “soft border” in the sense that India is manning the International Border with its Border Security Force as it is doing all along the entire India-Pakistan border. Unlike the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir where the Indian Army occupies with well- fortified military posts, the Jammu stretch is held by the Border Security Force with “frontier posts”. Pakistan is therefore tempted to exploit this limitation.

The third reason that prompts the Pakistan Army for conflict escalation along the Jammu Border is that relatively these border regions here are populated and cultivated right upto the border. Pakistan therefore indulges in psychological warfare where with each border clash the civilian population in the border villages flee from their homesteads. Pakistan thereby creates disproportionate sense of insecurity in India’s border population here who then start voicing dissatisfaction with the Government’s inability to protect them.

The final reason that the Pakistan Army has resorted to this strategy as an Indian media weekly correctly suggests is that Pakistan stands frustrated that no international attention or reaction is forthcoming on its incessant pursuit of border clashes along the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir State, as the international community after long years has come to accept this as a normal occurrence along a “Line” demarcated by a Ceasefire Agreement.

On the other hand any conflict-escalation along an established International Border draws international attention and concern as it could snowball into a wider conflagration. Pakistan seems to be oblivious to the serious implication that any violation of International Border by Pakistan amounts to an “Act of War” and India would be well within its rights to resort to military operations to neutralise Pakistan’s provocative moves along the International Border.

Many media analyses link Pakistan Army’s conflict-escalation of border clashes along the International Border and the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir to President Obama’s impending visit to India this month and thereby demonstrate that the Jammu & Kashmir border is a “live border” and thus a flashpoint.

If Pakistan believes so, then the Pakistan Army Generals are out of touch with prevailing strategic realities which confer on India the halo of an emerging global player being courted by all major powers and Permanent Members of the UN Security Council.

Pakistan Army Generals would be well-advised that none of the global major powers can any longer afford drawing equations of “strategic equivalence” between India and Pakistan, notwithstanding Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. India is not in the same league as Pakistan.

Concluding, it needs to be emphasised that India stands well-poised under Prime Minister Modi’s dynamic leadership to forcefully impress on US President Obama during his forthwith visit to India that India is no longer willing to submit to American pandering of the Pakistan Army and that India now has the will to impose the necessary conventional deterrence to rein-in Pakistan Army adventurism.

(Dr Subhash Kapila is a graduate of the Royal British Army Staff College, Camberley and combines a rich experience of Indian Army, Cabinet Secretariat, and diplomatic assignments in Bhutan, Japan, South Korea and USA. Currently, Consultant International Relations & Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. He can be reached at