India Races To Fix Kashmir Fence Damage, Stop Rebels
10 April 2005
Kaman Post: Indian troops are rushing to repair a border fence in Kashmir, badly damaged by the heaviest snowfall in decades, to prevent fresh incursions by separatist guerrillas, a senior army officer said. Last year, Indian army engineers fenced off most of the so-called Line of Control, a 742-km (460-mile) military line that divides Indian and Pakistani Kashmir, in what is seen as an ambitious attempt to curb the influx of anti-Indian militants. But the concertina wire barrier - which had helped reduce the number of militants slipping in from the Pakistani side - was damaged at several places after the heaviest snowfall in four decades in February, an Indian army brigadier said. 'In some places the damage is about 50 to 60 percent, in others it is 25 or 30 percent,' the brigadier, who did not want to be named, told Reuters at India's last military post on the frontier in Kashmir. 'In some places, the fence is under 20 or 25 feet of snow. The terrorists can just walk over the fence, there is so much snow,' he said. 'In other places it is fractured with huge gaps or many portions have just been swept away.' 'We have started repairs this month and have to complete it by the end of May. Otherwise, infiltration will pick up significantly from June when the summer makes the movement of terrorists easier in the mountains,' he said. The fence, built well inside Indian territory, passes through some of the most inhospitable terrain in the subcontinent, covering jungles, rocky Himalayan mountains, slopes covered by snow in winter, deep gorges and valleys with swift streams. It consists of two or three rows of concertina wire, about three metres (10 ft) high, electrified and connected to a network of motion sensors, thermal imaging devices and alarms acquired from the United States and Israel. NEW ROUTES Kashmir is at the heart of more than half-a-century of enmity between India and Pakistan, both of whom claim the Himalayan territory in full and have gone to war over the issue twice. India is trying to quell a 15-year revolt against its rule by Muslim rebel groups in its part of Kashmir. New Delhi accuses Islamabad of supporting the insurgency, which Pakistan denies. More than 45,000 people have been killed in separatist violence so far. The nuclear- armed rivals were on the brink of another war in 2002 but pulled back and launched a fresh bid to make peace and resolve the Kashmir dispute. The process has moved slowly but it got a big boost last week when the two countries linked divided Kashmir with its first bus service in nearly 60 years, despite militant threats. Violence in Kashmir and rebel incursions have fallen since 2004 and India credits this to the fence and military action. An Indian defence spokesman said the army detected 79 infiltration bids by guerrillas and killed 138 militants trying to sneak in during 2004, down from 120 bids and 294 rebels killed in 2003. So far in 2005, there were four infiltration bids and seven militants had been killed, he said. Rebel incursions are usually low during the winter months when snowfall blocks mountain passes and picks up in summer starting in May-June. With the fence making border crossings tough, militants were now trying new routes, a senior intelligence official said. 'They are now known to be flying from Pakistan to Dhaka and Kathmandu and then flying into Delhi,' the official said, referring to capitals of neighbours Bangladesh and Nepal. 'From Delhi they are flying into Kashmir and this is a new headache.'