It is interesting that while the Indian firing took place on May 9, the announcement was made a fortnight later, on May 23.
For the first time, the Indian Army claimed on Tuesday that on May 9 it had shelled across the Naushera sector at the Line of Control and destroyed Pakistani Army posts used to infiltrate terrorists. Visuals of fairly heavy shelling were shown on television screens. Pakistan said the claim was “false”, but that isn’t the point. The thing to note is the Indian announcement that it would resort to “punitive fire assaults”. In the past, shelling across the LoC came as retaliation when Pakistan broke the November 2003 ceasefire pact. Such exchanges were typically confined to small arms.
On this occasion, though, India used heavier weapons. Pakistan called the incident false as it is yet to work out how to respond. If it accepts the Indian claim, and doesn’t retaliate, it will appear weak before its public.
It is interesting that while the Indian firing took place on May 9, the announcement was made a fortnight later, on May 23. The time gap hasn’t been explained. Perhaps an immediate disclosure would have implied that the Indian action was in retaliation for the beheading of two Indian soldiers by Pakistan on May 1, while India is now openly declaring that it is starting a new pattern of seeking to inflict punishment for Pakistan infiltrating terrorists into J&K.
The Indian Army routinely used to return fire before the Narendra Modi government took office, and sometimes engaged in cross-LoC operations as well, like the much-hyped “surgical strike” of September 2016. But these weren’t mostly publicised. The intention was not to enter an escalatory spiral that could spin out of control.
However, this government, seized by the desire to take credit for every situation, wants to appear strong in the public eye and seeks to give wide publicity to military actions against Pakistan in particular. For this reason, it is more than likely that the real reason for the May 9 firing across the LoC with medium-level weapons was to dispel the notion of weakness after the beheading, which had caught the government short. Indeed, the government was subjected to withering comments by the families of the slain soldiers and these were shown on television.
The “surgical strike” was intended to be a deterrent, but Pakistan and its army of terrorists were not deterred and attacks (even on our military establishments) continued. On May 20-21, eight days after the cross-LoC firing, a strong infiltration bid was prevented by Indian troops.
It is evident this is why “deterrence” has been given up as the rationale behind Indian military retaliation and the doctrine of “punitive” action taken up. The shelling with heavier weapons is not a one-off event. Only time will tell, though, if this has been considered from all angles.