We firmly believe in peace but won’t tolerate unprovoked fir
Amid warmongering by Pakistan’s Army chief General Raheel Sharif and an uneasy calm in forward areas, the BSF has put every inch of the 198-km-long international border under strict surveillance.
The ‘sensitive’ border runs from Paharpur in Kathua to the Chicken Neck area of Akhnoor in Jammu district.
Despite a spike in truce violations by Pakistan, both countries are scheduled to hold the Director General-level talks between the BSF and the Pakistan Rangers from September 9 to ease tension on the border and in the larger interest of their respective border population.
Since August 15, at least 10 persons have been killed and 42 injured in Pakistani shelling on the Line of Control and the international border.
In an exclusive interview to The Tribune, Inspector General of the BSF, Jammu Frontier, RK Sharma said the talks were on and the BSF was eagerly looking forward to them. “Talks are on and we are very positive about them. The situation as of today on the border appears to be normal during the day but at night there are certain mischievous activities by some inimical elements on their side,” said Sharma.
When asked if the BSF anticipated any attempt by Pakistan to scuttle the talks the way it called off the NSA-level talks, Sharma said: “Pakistan has agreed to hold the talks and no such symptoms are visible to us which can indicate any kind of sabotage.”
On truce violations by the Pakistan Rangers, he said the frequency had increased during the current year.
“Every third day, there is a violation. We lost two of our men in the Samba sector this year, one in shelling and the other in cross-border fire,” he said.
While the frequency of truce violations is high this year, we have put every inch of the international border under physical domination, he added. The BSF’s top officer of the Jammu Frontier admitted that incidents of sniper fire by the Rangers were a cause for concern.
“Leave aside sniper fire, any fire on the international border is not ethical and is against the UN conventions. Being a professional force, we strictly follow the rules and we hope that Pakistan will also follow them in letter and spirit,” said Sharma. “We firmly believe in peace and we don’t initiate the first fire. But, if we are fired upon, especially on our civilian areas, then we reserve the right to retaliate,” he added.
About militants on the other side of the border, he said it was not possible to give their exact figures. “There are terrorists in good numbers on their side who are waiting for an opportunity to sneak into our territory but the BSF is very alert and alive to the situation,” he said.
When asked how the BSF had been guarding against trans-border tunnels, he said since there was no foolproof technology to detect such underground tunnels, the BSF had put the entire border under physical domination.
“Every inch of the international border is under strict surveillance and any activity close to it on the other side is viewed very seriously by us. We immediately tell Rangers to stop such activities. To ensure anti-tunnelling activity, we regularly carry out manual checks on the entire border,” he said.
In 2013, a 540-metre-long trans-border tunnel was detected in Chalyari village of the Samba sector and on August 23 last year another tunnel running 50 metres into the Indian side was detected in the Pallanwala sector.
The paramilitary force has even deployed women guards on the sensitive border. “We have deployed women constables on the international border. Primarily, they are posted on the gates that lead towards Zero Line where farmers have their fields. Since womenfolk also have to go to the other side of the fence, we have deployed these women constables to frisk them,” he said.
However, these women constables also perform other border-guarding duties like their male colleagues.