Kashmir Fencing Near Completion
7 August 2004
Srinagar: India has almost completed fencing of the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border in Kashmir despite opposition from Pakistan which controls parts of the territory. India's Union Minister of State for Home Affairs S. Ragupathy accompanied by Join Home Secretary H.S. Brahma arrived here Saturday to hold talks with top officials, including Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed and Governor (Ret'd) Lt Gen S. K. Sinha, and apprised them of the progress in the work aimed at checking the infiltration of insurgents into Kashmir. Ragupathy informed them that despite braving various odds, the BSF is all set to complete the fencing of the IB by March next year, which is one year head of schedule. He said that out of 191.66 kms of the International Border, mostly in Jammu region, the BSF had already completed fencing and flood lighting work on 185.58 kms and to date the force has completed fencing 150 kms. In addition, the force has raised 154 kms of bundh and erected floodlights on 87 kms of the International Border. To date, an amount of Rs. 420 million has been spent for fencing out of the sanctioned amount of Rs. 460 million. In addition, an amount of Rs. 220 million has been incurred from the Rs 290 million allocated for floodlighting. On the purchase of equipment, an amount of Rs. 141.2 million was approved by the center. The cost of fencing per km was estimated at Rs. 2.3 million while the cost of floodlighting per km was placed at Rs. 1.1 million. He was told that these arrangements would not only prevent infiltration and exfiltration of insurgents in the area but would also give protection to farmers cultivating their land. Ragupathy was apprised that due to border fencing about 16041 acres of land on the International Border could now be cultivated which was not previously possible due to firing from either side. The border fencing project was initially entrusted to the CPWD in July 1995. However, the department could not carry out the work due to intense shelling and firing by Pakistan troops and therefore the project was kept in abeyance. The task was later entrusted to the BSF in July 2002 and the target for completion of the entire project has been fixed at March 2006. While many in Pakistan equate the fence with the wall Israel is building in Palestine, the cease-fire between Indian and Pakistani troops has facilitated quicker completion of the work. Some skeptics in Kashmir see in it a tacit agreement between the two arch foes to divide Kashmir on a permanent basis. During the period of border fencing, six BSF personnel were killed and 32 injured due to Pak firing, which has since stopped. The most difficult task, however, remains the fencing of the 750- km-long military Line of Control which separates the Muslim-dominated areas of Kashmir. Here the Indian military is deployed and not the paramilitary BSF who are facing many odds like the continuous Pakistani shelling and hostile weather conditions as the line criss- crosses the world's most difficult terrain. The Indian government is installing state-of-the-art equipment purchased from Israel to detect movement of people on either side of the border as there are numerous infiltration and exfiltration routes for Muslim militants fighting for independence of Kashmir.