War Scenario, Part XVII

Part XVI

Lt. Shubhranjan had learned of the above mentioned fact on second day of his arrival when he had to scramble towards cover when Pakis started shelling the place. He was on a familiarisation tour of the post with Sub. Sonam playing the tour guide, when sound of first shell screeching towards the post hit their ears. Both men immediately scrambled towards the nearest bunker, reaching there only seconds before first of the shell landed, albeit well short of the place they were in. Pakistanis were using 122 mm Type 54, Chinese copy of Soviet M30 and ironically, Type 59I which were Chinese copy of M46 that the Indians had. Indians retaliated with shelling of their own. The duel ended as soon as it had started. Pakis didn’t want to risk needling Indians more than usual due to the strategic advantage latter held and Indians on the other hand, were almost always short of ammunition.

Sitting in the bunker while guns were blazing, Shubhranjan had not realised the cramped conditions inside. There was barely enough space for 2 man crew of the machine gun in the bunker and addition of 2 extra men had left little room for anyone to move without bumping into somebody else. He was too busy to pay any attention to this as he watched Sub. Sonam providing coordinates to the artillery crew on the short range radio. But he couldn’t help but notice shaking of earth as Paki shells landed close by and Indian guns fired back. Although both sides had fired only 5 shells each in less than 2 minutes, it has seemed liked an eternity to the young Lt, who was facing enemy fire for the first time. Slightly shocked and disoriented, he had just sat there until Sub. Sonam shook him awake after the firing stopped.

“Are you OK sir ? Don’t worry about this. Ye sab to chalta hi rehataa hai.” The veteran Subedar had told him with a nonchalant grin and went out of the bunker motioning the still confused Lt. to follow him.
They were met by Major Baljit who was always in a cheerful mood, irrespective of whatever was going around. He slapped Shubhranjan on the shoulder and asked, “ So Lt., did you liked the Paki welcome ? Quite a show they put on to make you feel special, didn’t they ?“

Subhranjan was still gathering his wits and could only mumble confusedly, “Yes sir!”

Both of other men laughed on hearing this much to the discomfort of somewhat embarrassed Lt. “Don’t worry Lt. You will get used to it. It’s nothing much.” Major Baljit said in a kindly way.

Although he nodded his agreement, Subhranjan still couldn’t understand how could anybody get used to high explosive shells exploding around him. “Around”, if the chap is somewhat lucky. No amount of luck is going to help someone who gets a direct hit, even within meters.” He thought to himself.

Next few days passed away in a similar way with Pakis marking their presence with an occasional burst of shelling which kept Indians on their toes. Pakis had the advantage of a terrain suitable for moving around and always fired from a different location, unlike Indians who were forced to stay in a restricted area. Although it somewhat evened out the odds, neither side liked it’s status. After all, no body likes to fight an evenly matched enemy, let alone a more powerful one. Much of the work on Indian side consisted on keeping an eye on Paki movements, just to keep the odds even.

This task they performed using high powered binoculars and with additional thermal sights during night or heavy fog. Recently, army HQ in Poonch had managed to get hold of a couple of Heron UAVs. Although it had made the task much easier, there was simply too much ground to be covered by only two UAVs. Local commanders had been pressing for more UAVs but the equipment and trained manpower were hard to come by. It meant that, they could manage to receive pictures and live video feed of their sector only once every two days. Rest of the time, they had to depend on their own eyes and binoculars. Looking at the pictures taken by Heron for first time, Shubranjan immediately noticed the immense force multiplier effect an eye-in-the sky provided. Even during low visibility conditions caused by fog, clouds or night, thermal imaging cameras of the UAV could capture every detail of men and machines on the ground and stream back the images in real-time to their handlers. He had talked about it with Major Baljit and wished that they could have more time with the UAVs. Major had replied simply, “We fight with what we have Lt., not with what we wish for. I agree with what you said, but we simply don’t have the resources right now. “
Seeing the expression on of Subhranjan’s face, he had smiled and continued, “ That’s what Brigadier Gagan said to me when I asked him for more UAVs just the way you said. Who are we to question the old man, eh ? I know he is trying his best. Who knows, we might get more in coming days.”

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