July 2001 News

Army for change of strategy in J&K

31 July 2001
The Hindu
Atul Aneja

NEW DELHI: With a political breakthrough on Kashmir at the Agra summit turning elusive, the security establishment is debating alternatives to bring down violence in the border State . The armed forces are veering round to the view that the status quo along the 540-km. Line of Control (LoC) is unrewarding. Without a change in the tack, it will be difficult to seize the initiative in this highly sensitive area, they feel, and cite three key reasons to substantiate their views. First, the Pakistani establishment is getting increasingly militarised and this, in turn, is likely to harden Islamabad''s disposition towards the LoC and Kashmir. The likely appointment of Maj. Gen. Mohammad Anwar Khan as the President of Pakistan- occupied Kashmir is a case in point. With the military acquiring an even higher profile in PoK, the assessment is that Pakistan- aided activity in Jammu and Kashmir may become more streamlined. The overall control over the LoC is exercised by the Rawalpindi- based 10 corps, headed by Lt. Gen. Jamshed Gulzar Kiyani. The Pakistan military''s tight control is evident from the appointment of loyal Colonel-level officers to man the district level monitoring cells to supervise the functioning of the civil administration. Second, militant activity in Kashmir after the Agra summit is on the rise and Pakistan''s capacity to trigger violence remains intact. The spurt is visible in the form of the Amarnath blasts by the Al Umar Mujahideen and the killings in Doda on July 22 by the Lashkar-e-Taiba. The issue of the Amarnath blasts was raised by the External Affairs Minister, Mr. Jaswant Singh, with the visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Ms. Christina Rocca, recently. The Lahore declaration, he said, was followed by the Kargil war and the Kandahar hijacking, while the Amarnath blasts followed the Agra summit. Infiltrations, especially in the area from the Keren to the Gurez sectors along the LoC during the ceasefire phase, are likely to encourage high-voltage militancy in the State. Third, the phase of ''maximum restraint'' along the LoC has already been dented. The security establishment feels firing by Pakistan will be restrained in the area between Jammu and Rajouri because of Indian retaliatory fire. The deployment of Israeli- built Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), which can keep track of Pakistani gun positions, has enhanced the firepower of the Indian artillery. Given the Indian capabilities in the Jammu zone, Pakistan is likely to land artillery shells in the high mountains of Ladakh till the Zojila Pass. The UAVs, highly effective at lower heights, are ineffective at high altitudes. Intelligence inputs suggest that Pakistan will strike known targets, but will keep the volume of fire relatively low to avoid undue escalation of tension. Keen on seizing the initiative, the armed forces feel the prevailing ''cold LoC'' is not in their favour. The Army''s standpoint, which includes the need for better monitoring of the 10-km. band on either sides of the LoC, has already been conveyed by the Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. S. Padmanabhan, to the Defence Minister. The Government, as of now, is, however, unlikely to endorse any steps which may hamper the next round of India-Pakistan talks.


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