Army Presses For Firing Range In Kashmir, To Get One In Jammu13 November 2015
The Economic Times
New Delhi: The army is pressing the Jammu and Kashmir government to provide land in Kashmir for a field firing range for the forces, even as the state government has moved a file to the Union defence ministry for renotifying the Kalith range in Jammu. Officials told ET that while the forces need land in Kashmir and no alternatives in Jammu or Ladakh regions could serve the purpose, the state government has shown no interest in acceding to the demand. The army had returned the Tosamaidan range in Kashmir to the state last year after expiry of the 50-year lease amid controversy over deaths of civilians due to unexploded shells, but on the condition that the government would suggest an alternate location for establishing a new firing range. 'We sent a proposal earmarking a new area immediately after handing over the range. However, there has been no movement on the proposal since,' said an official. The previous National Conference-led government had in principle accepted an alternate range in Kashmir in lieu of Tosamaidan, officials said. As reported by ET earlier, at the Civil Military Liaison Conference held last month, the government had promised to allot land for three firing ranges, two in Jammu and one in Ladakh. However, there was no mention in the conference of Kashmir, which is where a majority of operationally active troops are posted. 'It is not strategically viable to move troops from Kashmir to Jammu and this has been conveyed to the government,' the official said. The lack of a firing range in Kashmir is hampering training of air force personnel stationed in Kashmir as well, officials said. The Tosamaidan range was being used by the air force as well, they said. According to officials, the three distinct regions of Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir must be given one firing range each, with the top priority being Kashmir, followed by Ladakh, which remains cut off for five months.