April 2003 News

Healing Touch To Go On, But Troops Take Position

7 April 2003
The Indian Express

New Delhi: In the wake of the recent Nadimarg massacre, the Army has decided to maintain an offensive posture by retaining a division (10,000 troops) brought into Jammu and Kashmir from the East during Operation Parakram. It has also decided to induct 3,000 troops more to beef up the counter-insurgency grid this summer. This dual task division had been moved in from the Eastern Command as part of the overall deployment carried out after the December 13, 2002, attack on Parliament. It is understood that post the Nadimarg incident, the Government decided to persist with J-K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed's 'healing touch' policy, but without any let up in the security vigil. With about 180 identified pockets of Hindu clusters north of Rajouri, the eventuality of another Nadimarg cannot be ruled out. However, in retaining an offensive posture, the Government hopes to deter Pakistan from even conceiving any such plans of ethnic cleansing. The occurrence of Nadimarg-like incidents is said to be a direct counter to J-K Government's peace initiatives. But despite this, the Government has decided to give Sayeed's initiative a 'fair chance' with the Army reducing its presence in the towns and cities across the State. Directions have been passed to keep frisking to the bare minimum and avoid undue harassment to the public. The effort is to remove the 'garrison-like' look which settlements in J-K have come to reflect. However, with the snow beginning to melt in areas north of Poonch and mountain passes becoming more accessible, the Army will be increasing the deployment of mobile units to operate behind the first line of defence to guard against infiltrators. It is understood that the 3,000 troops being inducted afresh in the form of three newly raised Rashtriya Rifles batallions will provide the additional resources for the task. Sources said that by holding back the withdrawal of its dual task division India has also sought to make it clear to Pakistan that such ethnic killings will not be tolerated. According to intercepts from across the border, India's position has generated concern in Islamabad with its leadership now trying deny vehemently any involvement in the killing of Pandits at Nadimarg. In case an event of this magnitude were to repeat itself in J-K, New Delhi could construe that it is having the nod of the Pakistani establishment. In this context, analysts say, another Nadimarg might be seen as inciting India to take military action against Pakistan. Meanwhile, Sayeed's decision to disband the Special Operations Group (SoG) and merge it with the J-K police has had a negative impact on the counter-insurgency grid. It is understood that the effect has been observed not in operations, but in the availability actionable and accurate local intelligence. There has apparently been about a 20 per cent drop in the number of militants killed in the previous two months compared to the same period last year. One of the main reasons for the drop is said to be inacurracies in local intelligence.


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