November 2001 News

Pak. troop build-up along border

5 November 2001
The Hindu
Shujaat Bukhari

JAMMU: Tension along the Indo-Pak borders in Jammu and Kashmir is mounting with reports of fresh troop build-up during the past two days It appears to be shaping up into an ''offensive'' build-up causing concern to the Indian side which has geared itself to face the ''threat'' . Highly-placed defence sources told The Hindu that the Pakistan army''s striking corps had moved its high-calibre weaponry and troops close to the Indian side in the past few days near the Akhnoor, Pathankot and Samba areas. Sources said around 60,000 troops had moved from their Kharian base to the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border and were only 10-15 km away. They said ''this movement is certainly a serious threat, particularly the build-up in Jhelum- Chenab and Chenab-Ravi corridors''. They are also worried about the massing of troops in the most-strategic Mirpur-Mangla belt posing a serious threat to geographically weak Akhnoor-Samba sectors. Sources confirmed that early last week Pakistan troops were 40 to 50 km away from the borders and now the distance has been reduced to 30 to 35 km. Also known as Mangla corps and considered to be a strong formation of the Pakistan army, it is reported to have developed small enclaves at different places very close to the LoC and the IB, the defence sources said. Two-and-a-half infantry divisions of the Pakistan army and armoured brigades have been moved from the Kharian sector. These troops, sources said, were drawn from eight independent armoured brigade which were part of the Mangla corps. Soldiers from six divisions and a holding corps were also reported to have been moved. Sources said troops from Sialkot-Shakargargh sectors, 31 Corps in Bahawalpore and 5 Corps in Karachi were also on the move. However, it is not known whether the movement is part of a routine exercise or a real ''offensive build-up''. Activities of the Pakistan Air Force has also increased at Mangla, Mirpur, Kharian, Gujrat, Sialkot and Gujranwala. Alert sounded The Indian side has sounded a high alert along the border. Reports said that a build-up from this side is likely in the coming days for which an exercise had already begun, particularly in the Akhnoor sector. The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, expressed serious concern over the increasing tension along the borders. ''That does cause concern to us,'' he said adding that shelling had become routine now.


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