September 2001 News

India fears backlash in Kashmir, border forces on alert

17 September 2001
The Indian Express
John Chalmers

New Delhi: India said on Monday that its troops had stepped up their vigil on the Pakistan border after reports that Islamabad—under pressure from Washington over last week''s terror attacks—had closed militant training camps. Pakistan, which has in the past been accused of turning a blind eye towards Islamic fundamentalists that operate in Afghanistan and within its own borders, has promised to cooperate fully with the US in its fight against global terror. An Indian army spokesman said there were fears that if it did crack down on guerrilla training camps, militants could be flushed into Kashmir. ''We have ordered our soldiers to be extra vigilant to prevent infiltration because there are reports that Pakistan has shut down training camps,'' he told Reuters. New Delhi accuses Islamabad of sponsoring the insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir, which has raged for almost 12 years. Pakistan, which denies its neighbour''s charge, was widely reported by Indian newspapers on Monday to have asked the US to take a more active role in settling the Kashmir dispute as a quid pro quo for its efforts to assist Washington in a drive against terror suspect Osama bin Laden. Pakistan is trying to persuade Afghanistan''s ruling Taliban to hand over Saudi-born bin Laden, chief suspect in last Tuesday''s devastating attacks on New York and Washington. However, a Western observer who asked not to be named said Islamabad had not renewed its long-standing call for US involvement in Kashmir. Noting that reports of such a demand were from Islamabad, he said it was a spin Pakistan might have put on its talks with the US to placate domestic opinion. Political analysts say there may be an increase in guerrilla violence in Kashmir if the US launches strikes in Islamic countries to retaliate against the terror attack. MESSAGES INTERCEPTED Security officials said on Monday that they had intercepted messages to two diehard guerrilla groups urging them to step up attacks on Indian forces in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley. ''They are telling them to pin down the Indian army in the Valley, they think they (India) could also join the attacks on the terrorist bases,'' said Rudrapal Singh, Deputy Inspector General of Border Security Force. He named Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e- Mohammed, both Pakistan-based groups, as planning to step up attacks. Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has urged the world''s governments to join forces to crush terrorism. He has also called for the nation to observe a two-minute silence at 10:30 a.m. (0500 GMT) on Tuesday to pray for an end to the scourge. ''Every Indian has to be a part of this global war on terrorism,'' full-page newspaper advertisements calling for the silence quoted him as saying. ''Wherever we are let us observe two minutes of silence... a silent prayer: a silent resolve.'' India has offered to allow US military forces to use its facilities, if needed, in any retaliatory operations. However, a commentator on South Asian affairs said the US would be more likely to use its Indian Ocean air force base in Diego Garcia and aircraft carriers than risk controversy over launching from strikes from India and Pakistan. Brian Cloughley, a former deputy chief of the UN Observer Group to India and Pakistan, said carrier groups could be re-supplied—especially with marines—from the island, which lies far south of India in the arc between Africa and Indonesia. Indian commentators urged the government to adopt a measured approach on the widely expected US retaliation. ''Unfortunately, rather than adopting a measured and sober response, official India has chosen to echo the hysteria and war-mongering resounding across major world capitals,'' a daily said. ''To be carried away by emotion in a war-like situation is easy, but individual Indians would do well to remember that they will have to bear the consequences of this war long after the Americans have fought it and gone.''


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