While I was busy with tracking down Major and moving out to mainland when we found him, the conditions had grown more serious. Both countries were locked in a position of conflict which could only go worse and it did.
As the missiles and artillery shells were slamming in to their targets in Pakistan, Indian PMO released statements pointing out that the Indian response was still non-nuclear but will not stay this way if Pakistan tried something again. .We declared a no-fly zone within 30 kms of international border and Indian fighter planes had explicit orders to shoot down any and all air planes violating this order. The bravado and compulsion of saving face on Pakistani side forced them to bring 4 of their F-16s in to the no-fly zone from Sargodha base, All 4 of them were shot down as soon as they reached past Lahore. A half squadron of Indian Jaguars unloaded their massive ordinance of dumb bombs and CBUs on the offending Lahore airbase to drive the point home. The destruction of Lahore airport spread mass panic in the city and civilians choked up the roads trying to move towards west away of India-Pakistan border.
Indian RAPIDs had already mobilised by this time and were deployed on international border in offensive formations just waiting for go ahead from the top. Pakistani government under full panic mode was alternating between nuclear posturing and pleas for peace on world stage. The swift and accurate Indian response had demolished most of their military infrastructure close to the Indian border and their ground level command and control was in chaos.
Under imminent threat of Indian land forces crossing border and starting a full scale war, multiple countries offered to mediate and offer a peaceful solution. While Indian foreign ministry made suitable noises, the action on ground continued unabated. As Pakistanis were rushing their forces in Punjab and Rajasthan sectors to counter the assault of Indian RAPIDs, Indian army and air-force launched a massive invasion along LoC. Indian para-troopers and other land forces supported by air force and artillery captured a number of strategically important points across the border in Rajauri, Akhnoor and Punch in 2 days of continuous operations. Pakistani military presence along side this sector was completely wiped out for 4-6 kilometers alongside LoC. Pakistanis were completely humiliated after India released footage of Indian soldiers standing inside Pakistani military garrisons and posts and holding 3700+ Pakistani army and para-military forces as prisoners.
By this time, there was enormous pressure on India to stop the offensive and start talks. We had captured large swathes of Pakistani territory along IB and LoC to form a nice buffer and give us a great strategic advantage in previously unfavourable conditions. The capture of Pakistani personnel also gave us a very nice bargaining chip. At that point, our leadership was divided in two camps. One wanted to press ahead with further attack while the other wanted to call for talks. Even though we had numerical superiority, threat of another nuke attack was a factor to be considered. Since we had managed to capture some important strategic positions in numerous sectors, we were in a position of strength and could force Pakistan to dance to our tunes. That is, as long as the politicians didn’t screw it up.
We halted our offensive operations pending talks, As expected, there was not much to talk about. It was one thing about Pakistani selling off some wanted terrorist leader to USA for cash who was then killed in some drone strike. But handing over terrorists to India for trial was a suicide for Pakistani civilian as well as military authorities. Emboldened by support from their usual pay-masters they brazenly asked for concrete proof and unconditional return of captured territory and personnel and were refused outright. It was made clear from our side that there’d be no concessions from our side till the terrorists and military personnel involved in terrorist attacks against India even in past were not handed over to be tried in India. Veiled threats of nuclear response to protect “sovereignty” were made and responded in kind, for probably the first time.
So this became yet another point of unending “talks”, exchange of dossiers and allegations and counter-allegations between the two countries. In the meanwhile, Indian forces strengthened their hold on newly captured territory by constructing bunkers, roads and other associated infrastructure. Most of Pakistani civilians had already fled when Indian offensive reached their villages and all routes of their move back were sealed off till resolution of the issue. Indian forces guarding the access routes were under strict orders to not allow movement of Pakistani citizens for any purpose and that led to flare up of violence in various positions along Punjab. The toll on civilians was enormous with lakhs of Pakistani citizens turned in to homeless refugees. Pakistani civilian government had to resign and unlike we were expecting, Pakistani army refused to take over directly. The utter humiliation heaped on Pakistani armed forces played an important part in that as for the time being, they had no powerful military chief who could claim to have full control. A farcical President’s rule was imposed with the incumbent a known army plant.
The talks took a hiatus while Pakis were trying to build themselves a central government. While all this was going on. separatist movements in Balochistan and Pak Occupied Kashmir were suddenly getting a lot more attention. As expected Pakis were quick to blame India, but that was par for course. We kept on consolidating our hold on captured territory inspite of all the noise and posturing by Pakistanis. We had called their bluff and they could nothing apart from gnashing their teeth in impotent rage. Seeing the picture from a distance, felt good. There were a lot of things which actually were set in motion by all this, but maybe for later.
For now, I have to finish the story by telling you about what happened to major. His highly decomposed body was found washed up on the banks of a local river. It was presumed that his gypsy had met with an accident rolling down the mountain in to the raging river. His last rites were performed with full military honours in his hometown.