April 2001 News

India's border fencing act sparks row with bete noire

3 April 2001
The Hindustan Times
Udayan Namboodiri

New Delhi: India and Pakistan are caught in a face-off over the former's act of fencing the international border in Jammu. Caught on the wrong foot, Pakistan last week issued a strong statement against India's "unprovoked firing and related military activity along the Working Boundary". India today hit back saying it was only constructing "defensive structures" and an official spokesman rejected outright the concept of a "working boundary". The territory between the Punjab-Jammu border up to River Chenab in Jammu sector is part of the undisputed international border south of the Line of Control. But when India's Border Security Force (BSF) tried to fence this region after completing the fencing of Punjab and Rajasthan borders in 1993-94, they were prevented from carrying out the task by shelling from Pakistan. Islamabad changed tracks saying it was only a "working boundary" till the Kashmir dispute is resolved. India temporarily abandoned the plan. This unfenced portion of the Indo-Pakistan border subsequently became an all-weather point of entry for terrorists pushed by Pakistan. More than Rs 2 crore worth of fencing material lay in BSF sheds over the past decade. Now India appears to have hardened its resolve to protect itself. "The construction of defensive structures along the international boundary in Jammu and Kashmir is undertaken by our security forces from time to time. The nature and type of structure is obviously based on security requirements. In this context, Pakistan's infiltration of terrorists into the state of Jammu and Kashmir has to be taken into account. Our forces will continue to construct such defensive structures if they are needed," the External Affairs Ministry said today. India's decision to go ahead with the interrupted fencing plan stemmed from the need to control infiltration as a tactic in its fight against terrorism in Kashmir. Under the goodwill created by the non-initiation of combat operations (ceasefire), New Delhi decided to move fast to close this loophole that has been much exploited over the past decade.


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