July 2003 News

Gilgit-Skardu road re-opens, threat to Kargil continues

21 July 2003
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent

Jammu: Government sleuths have reported a flurry of activity across Kargil sector of Ladakh, involving the movement of men and material to and from base military camps in Pakistan-controlled Skardu valley. For the past fortnight or so Pakistan Air Force transport aircraft have been engaged in the task of carrying essentials for forces deployed in upper reaches across Kargil sector. According to intelligence reports, the PAF (Pakistan Air Force) had to be involved after the vital Gilgit-Skardu road remained blocked as a result of damages caused to it by landslides and rolling boulders. The Gilgit-Skardu road had proved to be the most vital life-line for Pakistani forces before and during the 1999 Kargil war. Pakistan's Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), which looks after the maintenance part of the road, also draws sustenance from the Pak Army in the event of unusual pressure of military vehicles on the roads leading to the Skardu valley. Intelligence reports said that the Frontier Works Organisation's field staff had to launch repair work on the Gilgit-Skardu highway virtually on a war-footing, after the Rawalpindi Army Headquarters, in an unusual move, ordered re-opening of the road as quickly as possible. Can this move be interpreted as a precursor of something untoward to come along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kargil sector ? Responding to this question, authoritative sources told EXCELSIOR 'Considering the commencement of the process meant to normalise relations between India and Pakistan, one would expect winds of relief and respite to blow all along the Indo-Pak border. Indian troops in Kargil and elsewhere are also for friendly relations with their Pakistani counterparts. If the other side decided to adopt negative measures, then Indian forces will offer an appropriate answer'. These sources divulged that in view of a series of firing incidents 'provoked' by Pakistanis close to the LoC in Kargil region in recent days, Indian border guards had been directed not to take any chance on their preparedness. Sources also divulged that the sensitive Dras section had received due attention by way of making available 'better' methodology to the troops, in view of the deployment of additional Pak troops across Dras since the beginning of this month. Stepped-up military activity across Kargil sector, it was pointed out, preceded last week's second round of talks, in Beijing, between a Pakistani military delegation and People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China. EXCELSIOR was told that these talks, part of Islamabad's process of promoting Pakistan's military collaboration and cooperation with China, took place at a time when the Pak Government seemed keen to further enhance the striking power of its three Services, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. The Pak military delegation was led by Vice-Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Muhammad Yusuf Khan, while the Chinese side at the talks was represented by Gen. Xiong Guangkai, Deputy Chief of General Staff, PLA. China is in a mood to assist India in further improving the bilateral relations between the two countries. But Beijing, Indian defence experts and analysts admit, hasn't decided so far to abandon its close and covert assistance to Pakistan in matters military.


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