NEW DELHI, May 29: The Indian army and Air Force with relentless attacks had pushed back infiltrators right upto the Line of Control in some places in Kargil sector while troops were put on high alert following reports that Pakistan armys defensive formations along the International Border had been moved to their operational areas.
Latest intelligence reports said over 400 infiltrators had been killed and 150 injured since the conflict began on May 8.
Air attacks on positions occupied by the infiltrators continued for the fourth day today without any let up despite the loss of two MiGs and a MI-17 helicopter.
With ground troops throwing off the intruders from one height after another, their area was rapidly shrinking, Maj Gen J J Singh, Additional Director General of Military Operations and Air Vice Marshal S K Malik, Additional Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operations) said.
"Pakistan has launched this misadventure and we have not fired out last shot", Gen Singh said adding that it was only a question of time before the LoC was restored.
In some pockets the infiltrators mainly Pakistani army regulars, special security group personnel and Afghan mercenarieshad been shunted back right up to the LoC and in others they had receded one to two kms from the line after their routes of maintenance had been cut off.
"From an initial ingress which could have posed a threat to vital communications in this sector, the intruders have now been confined to restricted areas which are being squeezed further through determined clearing operations supported ably by air strikes and incessant artillery bombardments", Gen Singh said.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister George Fernandes said, "our troops have reached the LoC in Drass sector, though there are some pockets which needed to be cleared of infiltrators."
Asserting that India did not believe that the situation would escalate into war, Fernandes said the operation by the armed forces was on in the eastern and western ridge of Batalik, certain key posts in the Drass sector and Kaksar and Mushkoh valley.
He said heavy casualties have been inflicted on the infiltrators and intercepts suggest that their casualties were as high as 400.
Fernandes disclosed that some infiltrators have been captured who included some Pak army regulars. He, however, declined to specify the exact number of such persons.
Asked how long the operations would continue, the Defence Minister declined to give any time frame saying the terrain was mountainous and snow-bound.
Gen Singh said some additional concentration of troops and guns were being carried out along the Line of Control by Pakistan with major accretions opposite Kargil sector.
Pakistan was moving additional artillery and infantry units and beefing up air force resources at Skardu. Significant deployments of air defence radars and air defence missile units had been carried out in the Skardu region. Stinger missiles had been deployed in the intruded positions.
"Certain reports indicate that Pakistan armys defensive formations along the International Border have been moved to their operational areas or are being placed on alert. These are probably precautionary defensive measures but we are not taking any chances".
He said reports that the Pakistan army was trying to push in foreign mercenaries and regular soldiers from other sectors seemed to be correct. Three attacks were launched by Pakistani forces in Rajouri sector which were repulsed by Indian troops. Three of the attackers were killed and many wounded in these failed attempts.
"Pakistan has also concentrated a number of foreign militants in other areas along the Line of Control in a bid to draw our attention away from the situation in Kargil. A very high state of alert is being maintained by our troops along the LoC to foil any bid", Gen Singh said.
He claimed at least 15 to 20 bodies of Pakistani soldiers were being brought to Skardu every day. As of May 27, Pakistani army casualties were given out as 90. These reports were borne out by intelligence inputs collected from near Rawalpindi which speak of 125 Pakistan army soldiers having been killed so far in Kargil.
Fresh inputs from highly reliable sources have also detailed the strength of the Pakistan army regular soldiers including special security group personnel in at least four of the intruded positions.
At many places the cohesion of these intruders had been shattered and they were operating in small isolated pockets.
Gen Singh said it was not easy to say how many positions the infiltrators were still holding on to. But even where they were still present, well armed and with missiles, they were facing serious problems of logistics.
No definite time frame could be given as to when they could be evicted but the pressure was on. There were a lot constraints under which the Indian armed forces were operating, he added.
Asked whether it was near war situation he said "we face an intrusion which is actively abetted and aided by Pakistan armed forces. These intruders are not native to Jammu and Kashmir. They are coming in a clandestine manner for terrorist acts...The low intensity conflict is being imposed on us".
Mr Malik said yesterday inspite of the loss of the helicopter the positions occupied by the infiltrators were pounded by the air force.
"The proof of the pudding is in what the army is getting a taste of", he said adding that the Air Force was using new tactics to eliminate the intruders.
AVM Malik said air raids were carried out this morning and the IAF was maintaining its self imposed restriction of remaining south of the LoC. The air attacks were on targets that had been well identified, he added.
Meanwhile, it had not been possible, yet, to recover the bodies of the four killed when the MI-17 helicopter was shot down by a missile yesterday, although the site of the crash had been located.
He said Pakistan had not yet handed over Flt Lt K Nachiketa, who is in their custody. Since there was no war on and the pilot had bailed out of the MiG-27 when it developed trouble on Thursday, Pakistan had no business to hold him in detention, he said.
AVM Malik said a number of the shoulder-fired American Stinger missiles were being used by the infiltrators but most of them were missing the targets.
Asked whether the civilian population had fled from the Kargil sector, Gen Singh said they kept moving to safer places and coming back to their homes.
It would have taken the Pakistan Army six to eight months to prepare for the intrusion and another one month to push the intruders into the Indian territory, at some points, five kms deep inside the Indian territory.
The intrusions have occurred in four pockets spread over about 120 kms from near Zojila to Turtok. The mountain ranges there are about 16,000 to 17,000 feet high, with the entire area being snow covered.
Analysing the Pakistani objectives, the sources said, that militarily the objective was to cut off the vital road from Zojila to Kargil, capture and dominate the area and help push militants into the Kashmir valley where militancy has been on the run.
Politically the objective is to internationalise the Kashmir issue and then negotiate from a position of strength, the sources said.
They underlined that this was not an infiltration but an intrusion with the intention to stay on in the area. The fact that the intruders were armed with surface-to-air missiles clearly established that they had come with the aim of remaining entrenched in the area.
The Pakistani designs were clearly emerging with call being made to the militants to prevent the movement of the Indian Army in the Kashmir valley. Logistics were also being built up by the Pakistan Army on their side of Line of Control (LoC).
The sources conceded that the Indian authorities had been caught unawares by the intrusions, one of the major reasons being that there had been no attempt by Indian or Pakistani forces to disturb the LoC in the area since 1971.
The sources also sought to dispel the impression that the Indian Army had vacated some of its posts during the winter. In fact, since October last no posts had been vacated because Pakistan had engaged in heavy shelling at that time and because of concentration of Pakistani troops in Kargil area.
The intruders had come through the gaps in the posts as it was not possible to man the entire 740 km long LoC, they said.
The Indian armed forces are determined to rid the area of the intruders but it is too early to outline the time-frame, the sources said. (Agencies)
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