The Indian Army will avenge the killing of two troops who were killed by Pakistan Army Snipers in Jumgund area of Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir recently. Pakistan Army has acquired latest, state of art rifles, while India is still heavily dependent on Russian-origin 7.62mm Dragunov semi-automatic sniper rifles.
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Deadly sniper operations are considered a key tool in demotivating rival soldiers in the continuing border conflict between the Indian and Pakistan along the volatile line of control.
“Much more than the use of heavier weapons like mortars, light artillery and anti-tank guided missiles along the LoC, sniping has a greater demoralising effect, almost akin to a fear psychosis, among both commanders and troops,” says a senior Army officer.
So, the Indian Army will “more than avenge” the killing of two of its junior commissioned officers (JCOs) in sniping action by Pak troops in Jumgund area of Kupwara district of north Kashmir last Friday. “It will be at a time and place of our choosing like we have retaliated to such sniping operations in the past,” said another officer.
But the fact also remains that Indian infantry battalions are still making do with Russian-origin 7.62mm Dragunov semi-automatic sniper rifles, which have a “limited effective kill range” of 800-metre and a design vintage of the 1960s. The Army for several years has been keen to induct 5,719 new 8.6mm sniper rifles, with an effective kill range of 1,200-metre with .338 Lapua Magnum ammunition, from abroad.
This acquisition project, which was finally granted “acceptance of necessity” by the Defence Acquisitions Council in February this year at an estimated cost of Rs 982 crore under the “Buy Global” categorisation, is however still at the initial tendering or request for proposal (RFP) stage. It will take at least three to four more years for the actual contract to be inked after extensive field trials and commercial evaluation.
“In the absence of Picatinny rails, the Dragunov rifles are also incompatible with several modern essential accessories like magnification and sight systems. Their ammunition is also quite expensive. There is no question that a new modular sniper rifle, with domestic production of its ammo, is urgently needed to enhance our operational effectiveness,” said the senior officer.
“Our sniper course also needs a drastic overhaul. Effective sniping can totally disrupt tactical and logistical functions of a forward post by restricting mobility of its troops,” he added.
The Pak army, in contrast, has sharply upgraded both the training and equipment of its snipers. “They have very good sniper rifles, including the Remington modular ones from the US. Their snipers are also much better trained,” said another officer.
The Pak Army has also taken to “out-sourcing some of its sniping operations” to terrorists who target Indian posts from different “pre-reconnoitered” positions along the LoC. “There is a pattern we have noticed. But overall, our troops do double the damage the Pak Army does in sniping and other operations,” he added.
With both sides continuing with their cross-border artillery and firing duels, India has recorded as many as 1,570 ceasefire violations so far this year, which have broken all annual records since 2003. While 27 Indian soldiers have laid down their lives along the LoC, another 34 have died in counter-terror operations in the hinterland that have led to the killing of 247 terrorists.
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