The return of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has lowered tensions along the border, but India is keeping its guard up, not willing to take chances in anticipation of a possible escalation by Pakistan.
Indian preparations include the first ever operational deployment of the cutting edge Scorpene-class submarine INS Kalvari, as well as limited movement by ground troops to further secure the International Border in the Jammu sector.
Troops along the border remain war-ready while those in the hinterland are on high alert to counter possible terror strikes after the Indian Air Force destroyed Jaish-e-Mohammad’s training facility in Pakistan.
Senior officials speaking off the record said Pakistan’s military is still carrying out troop mobilisation, largely across the Line of Control (LoC) and some areas along the International Border as well.
Ground-based air defence units are on high alert, even in places as far away as Rajasthan and Gujarat. This follows the attempted air strike by Pakistan Air Force on military installations in J&K on Wednesday, which ended in an aerial battle.
Officials said the next few days will be crucial, and escalatory moves such as a terror strike or boundary violations would draw a strong response, with India reserving the right to act against terrorist camps.
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In the military briefing on the ongoing tensions with Pakistan, the shortest address was by the Indian Navy: Rear Admiral DS Gujral delivered a crisp, 71-word statement, compared with 240 words by the army and 452 words by the air force that shared details of the air battle.
The naval mobilisation that saw at least three dozen combatants on war readiness in the Arabian Sea is believed to have put considerable pressure on Pakistan.
While Rear Admiral Gujral merely said the navy is “deployed in high state of readiness and remains poised in all the three dimensions — on surface, under sea and in air”, it is learnt that all operational platforms have been at sea and were ordered to be on full standby.
While the Indian Navy did not engage with the enemy during the Kargil war, it’s scaled-up presence along the Arabian Sea this time — which threatened to cut off supplies to Pakistan — is believed to have been effective in preventing the conflict from spreading beyond the LoC.
India’s largest naval war game — the Theatre-Level Operational Readiness Exercise (TROPEX) — has been put on pause given the prevailing situation, and is expected to resume only after the tensions cool.
As part of the exercise — which was originally planned to be concluded in early March — over 70 warships, besides combat aircraft and support vessels, are at sea, fully armed and prepared for operations.
Officials said the ‘limited movement’ of some Indian troop formations along the International Border was an interim and precautionary step. The Indian deployments, they said, are still a shade lower than Pakistan’s.
SOURCE : ET