In the din over the government’s flip flop over the Pakistani Army killing five Indian soldiers last week was lost the fact that the Indian Army had ignored Intelligence warnings and patrolling protocols as the jawans ventured out to guard the five-km stretch of the 778-km Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. An initial Army probe has discovered that Intelligence agencies recently intercepted important conversations suggesting the BAT (Border Action Team) units of the Pakistani Army’s border battalions would carry out attacks on Indian security forces, which was shared with the Indian Army in July, sources said. The commanding officers—21 Bihar battalion Commanding Officer Col C S Kabsuri, under whose command the patrol team operated; 91 Infantry Brigade commander Brigadier S K Acharya, who is Kabsuri’s immediate boss and Acharya’s boss and 25 Infantry Division commander Major General V P Singh—are in the gunsights of a Court of Inquiry probing the incident. So is the Nagrota-based 16 Corps commander Lt Gen B S Hooda who commanded these officers.
“The Court of Inquiry will go into how the team prepared to go about their patrol, the sequence of events leading to the ambush, and what Indian forces did after the attack,” a senior Indian Army officer said. “Initial information shows that there were gaps in the manner the patrol team and their commanders followed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs),” said an Army source. He said the unfortunate team was not expecting an attack and was not careful enough to look out for the intruders. The Pakistani specialist troops operation had resulted in the death of five of the six soldiers, while the sixth, Sepoy Shambhaji Kute was injured. He is the only eyewitness from the Indian side and at present, and is recuperating at a military hospital in Jammu region.
Intelligence sources said that last week’s attack was planned 15 days in advance. The Indian patrol team’s movement from Begum to Cheetah posts and their state of alertness were monitored for several days before the actual operation using the cover of darkness was executed on Tuesday.
“Apart from technical interception, there were telltale signs of cigarette butts and tea packs in the area, suggesting the aggressive movement of ISI spotters close to the border regions. Our forces were warned to remain vigilant,” a source said. However, those warnings seemed to have been largely ignored. The patrol team and its commanders are being faulted for “not expecting the worst” from the Pakistani side, despite intelligence agencies cautioning them of an attack along the LoC. They were also warned about ceasefire violations by Pakistani regulars to provide cover for terror infiltrations, which has increased by 80 per cent this year than last year.
After Army Chief Bikram Singh’s visit to the LoC following the killings, a Court of Inquiry under a Brigadier has been instituted to list flaws and gaps in the SOPs issued to all border-guarding Army units and to suggest remedies to ensure the troopers follow them in letter and spirit,General Singh rushed to Nagrota first near Jammu and then to Akhnoor, about 30-km away from the LoC, to meet with the officers in charge on August 7. They gave a presentation to explain the sequence of events as happened at the border. The meeting took place at a military station in Akhnoor, after General Singh’s attempt to reach the Brigade headquarters at Poonch failed due to bad weather.
The Sunday Standard