October 2000 News

Pakistani mercenaries may induct SAMs into J&K

28 October 2000
The Hindu

NEW DELHI: Pakistani mercenary groups have acquired shoulder fired surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and plan to induct them into Jammu and Kashmir soon, according to Sheikh Jamilur Rehman, secretary general of the Muttahida Jihad Council (MJC). ''We have designed and produced an indigenous anti- aircraft missile to counter the Indian Air Force'', Mr. Rehman who is also the Amir of the mercenary group Tehrikul Mujahdeen was quoted as saying by leading Pakistani weekly Friday Times. ''The missile will be tested very soon,'' Mr. Rehman claimed talking to reporters in Lahore to announce that the dominant Kashmiri militant group Hizbul Mujahideen had been taken back into the fold of the MJC, an umbrella organisation of Pakistan- based militants. The Pakistani paper claimed that the militant groups may be raising the ante in Kashmir by induction of the SAMs which could target Indian helicopters. ''The introduction of shoulder fired missiles could add another dimension to the conflict, specially if they end up downing a few Indian helicopters or aircraft'', the paper quoted Pakistani defence experts as commenting. Citing the example of induction of stingers into Afghanistan, Pakistani defence experts were quoted by the paper as saying ''while introduction of stingers in Afghanistan made a huge difference to the conflict, we must not forget the war effort was sponsored by Americans, who held the balance'' hinting that Pakistani sponsors of terrorism were testing waters before giving the green signal for handing over SAMs to militants. Defence sources in New Delhi said that any induction by Pakistan of force multipliers such as shoulder firing missiles into Jammu and Kashmir could be adding a dangerous dimension to the conflict. ''It could amount to grave provocation and consequences,'' they said without elaborating. The Pakistani defence experts also felt that such a step could lead to further instability in Kashmir. Friday Times said capture of some militants by Indian security forces with SAMs in the late 1990s had prompted the then Prime Minister, Mr. I.K. Gujral, to call up his Pakistani counterpart, Mr. Nawaz Sharif. ''Mr. Gujral told Mr. Sharif that any attempt by militants to down Indian aircraft could add dangerous dimensions to the conflict,'' the Pakistani paper quoted top sources as saying. Meanwhile, Defence Ministry sources here described the reports of militant groups acquiring capability to build SAMs as ''ridiculous'' and said such claims could only be a cover for Pakistan army providing its controlled mercenary groups with such missiles. - PTI


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