A Long Walk along the Line of Control [LC] in Kashmir

I served as the Logistics staff officer in the rank of Major  during the mid 70’s in a Brigade HQ close to the Line of Control [LC ] in Kashmir for 3 years. I got this job courtesy my qualifying in a 10 month long staff course in 1975 at the Defense Services Staff College [DSSC] at Wellington, South India. At Wellington, we were 300 officers from the Army, Navy and Air Force including about 60 officers from friendly foreign countries, all selected through a competitive examination. Thus, we were a privileged lot in many respects. During our training, we were exposed to many facets of military strategy, military history and international affairs as well as a detailed study on staff duties in field and peace conditions. We also participated in a number of war games practicing various scenarios simulated with  imaginary enemy threats both in the plains and mountains.

It was during the DSSC training, that I got exposed to the concepts of LAC [Line of Actual Control] referring to the de-facto international border between India and China after the 1962 war and the CFL [Cease Fire Line] between India and Pakistan in Kashmir after the 1947-48 war which got modified based on the Shimla Agreement of 1972 after the Indo-Pak war of 1971. We also learned about the Durand Line marking the border between Afghanistan and British India [later with Pakistan], the McMahon Line between India and China decided about unilaterally by Britain in 1917, which became the border between India and China in the North East, and the Radcliff Line delineating the International border between India and Pakistan after the partition.

What was noteworthy about all these demarcation exercises was either natural water shed principles [where water flows to each side from a hilly feature] or based on ground realities at a point when hostilities were halted by both sides. In both the cases, lines were drawn first on maps and adjusted marginally for tactical reasons without scant regard to the people and their ethnic background  affected by the delineation. This resulted in frequent border violations and negotiated truce following such incidents. At the Brigade level, we had flag meetings with Pakistan Army representatives when such issues came up. This is what we normally refer to as a No War – No Peace Scenario obtaining in our artificially created borders.

As per the Standard Operating Procedure [SOP] of our Brigade, the Commanding Officer of the Battalions along with his subordinate commanders, the staff officers of the Brigade were required to familiarize on the ground with the LC as a detailed knowledge of the lay of the ground astride the LC is essential in ensuring its defense. Soon after joining duty, I set out on my tour of the LC in a small team with adequate security escorts. I covered the entire LC in 3 days walking about 6 hours  during the day, spending the night at forward posts. What I experienced amply illustrated the points I mentioned above – Villages divided arbitrarily between Indian controlled area and Pakistan controlled area on the LC, at times, water available on one side of the LC, large minefields laid on both sides marked with barbed wire etc. In one case, we saw an abandoned house with one window on the Indian side and another on the Pakistan side with LC going in between.  We also noticed live mines on the hill-side  drifted to the road side, making it very dangerous to walk without precautions [walking only on the beaten path]. Many a times, during local festivals or at a marriage ceremony, people cross over the LC at great discomfort to the border  security forces but mostly with tacit understanding of the local commanders.

The porous nature of the LC has now become an advantage for Pakistan  trained infiltrators and terrorists to cross over to the Indian side to engage in subversive activities. We now live with this scenario for the last 70 years without a permanent political solution to the problem. As and when a solution is found, many adjustments will have to be made to correct the aberrations on the ground to make sure durable Peace between both the countries. I can only hope that this happens in my lifetime!

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