With the operational situation along the western front remaining volatile amid heavy exchanges of cross-border firing with Pakistani forces, the Indian security establishment is taking no chances in being ready for any contingency. Even as the Army and IAF airbases maintain top-levels of operational readiness, the Navy too is swinging into action with a major exercise “Paschim Leher (western wave)” in the Arabian Sea from next week. View more at #Hindustan360.
Over 40 warships and submarines, backed by maritime fighter jets, patrol aircraft and drones, have already begun to amass on the western seaboard for the intensive combat manoeuvres, which include “a little cross-deployment” even from the eastern seaboard, say top defence sources. Concurrently, the defence ministry has delegated emergency financial powers to the three Service vice-chiefs, Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat, Air Marshal B S Dhanoa and Vice Admiral K B Singh, and set up empowered procurement committees to “make up deficiencies” in the ammunition and spares stockpiles of their forces “at the earliest”, added the sources.
The Indian security establishment’s assessment is that Pakistan army chief General Raheel Sharif “may try something” in the form of BAT (border action team) operations or a major terror strike in the Indian mainland. “Gen Sharif is likely to keep tensions high in the run-up to his slated retirement towards November end,” said a source.
“Gen Sharif may be angling for an extension as the Army chief or assuming some other important role despite his edgy equation with the Nawaz Sharif government. Since Thursday morning, there has been a sudden increase in firing by Pakistani forces both along the line of control (LoC) and international border (IB) in J&K,” he added.
The firing has been particularly intense in the Sunderbani, Poonch, Bimber and Tangdhar areas along the LoC as well as the Kathua, Hiranagar and Samba regions of the IB. The cross-border exchanges have been largely restricted to 82-mm mortars and machine gun fire, except for an occasional use of 120-mm heavy mortars by the two sides. Artillery duels, which would mark a major escalation, have not been witnessed so far.
“The situation is not warlike. But it’s certainly hot. Our forces have registered as many as 57 ceasefire violations by Pak forces since the Indian Army conducted surgical strikes against terror launch pads in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir a month ago on September 29,” said another source. The creation of the empowered committees, which have already visited Russia and Israel, to fast-track acquisitions for artillery shells, rockets, missiles, tank ammunition and the like comes in the backdrop of the 1.3-million strong Army holding less than half of its authorised war wastage reserves (WWR) for 40 days of “intense fighting”, as was reported earlier by TOI.
“Yes, the armed forces do not have enough WWR for even 20 days of a full-scale war. But that does not mean they are not operationally ready. The empowered committees have been set up because it was seen that the normal capital procurement route was proving cumbersome and taking too long,” said the source.
The Paschim Leher naval exercise, in turn, is a scaled up version of the earlier “Defence of Gujarat Exercise (DGX)” and geared towards tackling both conventional military as well as terror threats emanating from the sea. “The exercise, from November 2 to 14, of the Mumbai-based Western Naval Command will test operational readiness all along the west coast,” said the source.
— Hindustan 360 (@Hindustan360) October 29, 2016
View more at #Hindustan360.