Armitage Says Infiltration Down, Figures Tell Another Tale
9 May 2003
The Times of India
New Delhi: The question was blunt, 'Do you think the cross-border incursion into Indian Kashmir is down?' The answer was direct: 'The cross- border violence and lethality are down from this time last year.' But in India, US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage's response to a Pakistani questioner at Thursday's press conference in Islamabad has few takers. Figures available with the government do not quite tally with Armitage's assertions. Till May 8, some 54 terrorists have been killed trying to get across the Line of Control. This is almost identical to the figure of people killed in the same period in 2002. With a straight face Armitage also spoke of the 'absolute assurance' he had received from Pakistan President Musharraf that there were no camps in 'Azad Kashmir' and 'if there were, they would be gone tomorrow'. Given his own punctilious demeanour and careful articulation, Armitage can hardly have escaped the irony of Musharraf's response. In May 2002, he was the one who carried the General's promise to New Delhi that Pakistan would end infiltration across the LoC 'permanently'. For this reason, there is little or no excitement in New Delhi. Speaking to a TV channel on Friday, Defence Minister George Fernandes said that terrorist camps were still functioning and the government had ample proof of their existence not just in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, but across Pakistan itself. On the same day, speaking to the BJP Sahyog cell, Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani described this infrastructure: training camps for terrorists, provision of weapons, giving money to families of terrorists and sending instructions to terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir using the communication networks. Official agencies concede that they do not have an easy way to determine just how much infiltration is going on. 'The only sure indicator we have is the number of terrorists killed while crossing,' says an intelligence officer. Estimates of numbers are provided only when someone is actually arrested while crossing or just after. The figures show that there was a dip in infiltration in the January-May period in 2001, when just 17 infiltrators were killed crossing the LoC. 'But this number may have been a matter of chance,' said the officer. 'If we average it out, we estimate 40-50 people have been killed in this period in the past five years and anywhere upto five or six times that number have got through.' The bulk of this infiltration takes place across the LoC in the Poonch-Rajouri area since the high north Kashmir mountains are snowed up till the end of May or mid-June. What neither Armitage nor Musharraf have addressed is the continuing activity of the functioning of jehadi groups in Pakistan. Early April, the chief of Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT), Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, declared in an interview to The Friday Times that killing of Hindus was a part of their jehad against India. The statement came soon after J&K police chief A K Suri accused the Lashkar of killing of 24 Kashmiri Pandits in Nadimarg in south Kashmir on March 25. Saeed had been detained for short periods in 2002 but is currently at liberty. The LeT has renamed itself Jamaat-al-Dawa and continues to function in Pakistan from its headquarters at Muridke, near Lahore, and is recognised by the Indian security agencies as the deadliest of the jehadi formations operating in the Valley.