Artillery Exchanges Stage Comeback After 2003 Truce

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Srinagar—Artillery field guns have come into play across the LoC north of the Pir Panjal ranges this month for the first time in fifteen years since the truce of 2003, and the army foresees a spurt in infiltration bids and militant activity in the coming seasons, media reports quoting army sources said.

The army put 105 mm field guns into action briefly during ceasefire violations in the Uri and the Rampur sectors of North Kashmir this month, they said.

The sectors, falling within the zone of the 15 Corps command, witnessed 8 of the 114 ceasefire violations across the LoC since the beginning of this year.

Escalations on the frontiers following New Delhi’s claims of cross-border surgical strikes in September 2016 had led to the use of heavy artillery including the 155 Bofors howitzers in LoC sectors south of the Pir Panjal ranges which come under the command of the army’s 16th Corps.  

Also, this year, there were five separate occasions when the Pakistan army used 120 mm mortar shells against the Indian army, officials said. 

Though current tensions in the Uri sector are said to be beginning to subside, uncertainty prevails as to the future turn of events.

Army officers attribute escalations to the comparatively lower volumes of snow in the region this year and to what they term as Pakistan’s desperation to push in more experienced militant commanders into north Kashmir to make up for their falling numbers. 

This year, there have been four attempts at infiltration by sixteen militants, out of whom seven returned to Pakistan, four were killed during the cross-in bid, and only five managed to enter the Kashmir Valley, according to officials.

A senior army officer at the Udhampur-based headquarters of the army’s Northern Command said that “Pakistan had begun its activity on the LoC early this year.”   

Citing lack of snow this season, the officer said that the army would ensure that Pakistan would not find it easy to push in militants waiting at the launch pads.

 “And we will respond to ceasefire violations in equal measure,” he said.

The army expects infiltration attempts to pick up pace as, according to it, Pakistan was “desperate” to induct more experienced people because the elimination of militant leaders last year had left around 135 local recruits “who have neither the experience nor the training to fight effectively.”  

According to sources, the army expects a “hot summer” this year with an upswing in both “infiltration bids as well as militant activity like weapon-snatching and bank looting.” 

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