Back in the day, cross-LoC hit and run was a given

Eagle eyes: A soldier keeps vigil at an outpost in Jammu. Cross-LoC raids used to take place regularly in the 1990s.  

On February 27, 2000, as Pakistani troops opened heavy fire on Indian positions in the Nowshera sector, a group of terrorists sneaked across into the Indian side. They struck on Ashoka Listening Post, killed seven soldiers, and severed the head of one of them to take back as trophy. When the news became public, outrage was instant.

The Pakistani media reported the incident with a twist, saying the cross-border raid was led by Ilyas Kashmiri, a veteran terrorist of Afghanistan operations, to take revenge for an Indian Army raid on a Pakistani village called Lonjot in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. According to those reports, Indian commandos raided the village on February 25, 2000, spent the entire night there, and killed 14 civilians. The Ilyas Kashmiri-led operation by the Pakistani terrorists came a day later. The then Pakistan ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, congratulated the team led by Kashmiri, the reports said.

Such stories, of cross-border raids, many of them never verified or admitted by the Armies, have not been uncommon along the 740-km Line of Control for decades, especially since the Kashmir insurgency flared up in the late 1980s, say Army veterans. The only difference this time is that the Narendra Modi government has decided to go public with a surgical strike, they say.

Targeting terrorists

According to veteran para commandos, they have regularly undertaken cross-border raids in the 1990s and up until the ceasefire along the LoC was declared in 2003. “It was far too common, but our targets were always the Army or terrorists, not innocent villagers,” says a retired Para Special Forces officer.

The retired officer, who has himself taken part in some of those operations before the Kargil conflict of 1999, said the targets were often Army posts or militant hideouts. “There was large number of terrorist launch pads those days. Often, the targets could be some small military posts, or their patrols,” he said.

The former 15 Corps GOC Lieutenant-General Syed Ata Hasnain says such raids were “routine” before the 2003 ceasefire along the LoC came into being. “It was mostly response from our side to action by the other side. The targets used to be patrols, logistics detachments, listening posts, etc.,” he told The Hindu.

After 2003, such cross-border raids almost ceased, but resumed sometime in 2007-08, say Army sources. The new wave of cross-border actions peaked with the beheading of Lance Naik Hemraj on January 8, 2013.

Pakistan, which actively seeks to internationalise Kashmir issue, has repeatedly filed complaints with the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) accusing the Indian Army of doing cross-border operations.

Those complaints have accused the Indian troops of decapitating at least a dozen Pakistani soldiers and killing at least 30 of its citizens in raids across the border since 1998.

Indian Army do not file any such complaints with the UNMOGIP, but it emerged when Hemraj was beheaded that there have been at least three other instances of beheading of Indian soldiers in over a decade before that incident by the Pakistani troops.

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