Proxy War in Kashmir reaching a new stage?
by N S Rajaram on 05 Aug 2019 7 Comments

The recovery of M-24 sniper rifles suggests that now Pakistan army riflemen are engaged in the terror war in Kashmir. This could be the reason behind the movement of a large contingent of 35,000 troops by the Indian Government. This has potential to escalate into a full scale war.


In the past week two significant developments suggest that the Pakistan army may be planning a large scale military operation in Kashmir. First was the recovery of one or more US made M-24 sniper rifles by Indian troops. Next, the movement of almost two divisions of additional troops by India. The media reported as a move to protect the Amarnath Yatris from terrorists. I see it as something more sinister.


Since most readers and media persons are unlikely to be familiar with sniper rifles, let me try to explain what they are. They are long range rifles that allow the shooter to pick and shoot selected targets at long range, typically, 200 meters and longer. The M-24 is a 7.62x51 mm caliber rifle made by Remington Arms of the United States. Anyone can buy them in the open market in the US. The remarkable thing is their accuracy, especially when used with a telescopic sight, also widely available. I have myself shot groups of three bullets within a radius of one inch at 200 yards.


My experience is mostly with sporting rifles and I have never received military training in sniping, even though I have close association with the armed forces of both India and the United States. Still I could get tight groups at 200 yards.


This sounds impressive, but it takes skill, training and practice to use them effectively. It is the job of a specialist. It is not like throwing bombs or planting mines, which is how most terrorists operate. Most of them do not have the skill and training to use sniper rifles effectively. This suggests highly trained Pakistani troops are being deployed in Kashmir to carry forward the proxy war. They are called sharpshooters.


So, more than protection of the pilgrims must have been involved in the movement of two additional divisions (about 38,000 men) into Kashmir. The army might have intelligence that Pakistan has changed its strategy and gone beyond supporting Kashmiri militants to actively deploying its fighting forces to fight Indian troops.


This suggests that the Pakistan army may not be satisfied with results of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Washington and his meeting with President Trump. All they got was an offer by Trump to mediate if India asks, which was rejected out of hand by India. The army might have hoped for promise of money or weapons which did not materialize. It remains to be seen if Imran Khan’s position remains secure after this, of if he becomes dispensable.


In addition, the terrorists have been taking heavy losses at the hands of the Indian troops. This may be behind the Pakistan army’s decision to deploy regular troops over the rabble that make up its terrorist outfits. With regular troops with high velocity sniper rifles, they may selectively target high value targets like leaders. A prime example was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy by former Marines sharpshooter Lee Harvey Oswald.


India should be particularly careful around Independence Day when both military and political leaders assemble for flag hoisting. Pakistan might see them as potential targets. These might have influenced the Government to increase the troops in Jammu and Kashmir. This could also be the reason behind the highly critical statements by Kashmiri politicians – Mehbooba Mufti and the Abdullahs – and Congressmen like Ghulam Nabi Azad, who realize that Pakistani plans have been forestalled by the Indian Government.


Getting back to the main point of this essay, Pakistan appears to be engaged on an adventure that goes beyond threatening the Amarnath Yatris.


[India has since asked all pilgrims to leave the valley, all tourists to leave the State, and put hospitals and security forces on high alert]


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