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Pakistan: Reigniting Kashmir
|by Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle|
ndia's Defence Minster speaking on activities of terrorists in Kashmir in far away Bangalore stated the obvious, "In the coming months there could be more attempts at infiltration and violence. There are forces within and outside the country who do not want free and fair elections," Antony added.
The signs of resurgence of violence in Kashmir were ominous and obvious. After four years of ceasefire on the Line of Control, Jammu and Kashmir saw exchange of heavy fire at Karnah in the Tangdhar sector on the night of 13 May. This was a follow up of similar firing on the International border in the Samba sector on 9 May. Praveen Swami writing in the Hindu recently indicates that there could have been many more minor incidents of cease fire violations which have gone unreported.
While the villagers in Karnah have been used to artillery shelling some years back, they had been comfortable with the peace, thus panic gripped after troops exchanged artillery fire for 15 minutes. 'Pakistan army fired 12 mortar shells into this side,' said senior army officials. In another incident a soldier was killed in firing in the Mendhar region, in Jammu. The Pakistani military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas of the ISPR called the allegations as "baseless." "No firing from this side of any kind has taken place," Abbas said.
A militant was killed during an encounter in Samba, a day after eight persons including three of a family, two militants, two soldiers and a photojournalist of a Jammu based English daily were killed at village Rakh Amb Tali of Kaili Mandi on 9 May.. "We have successfully eliminated two heavily armed militants, who not only attempted to storm an army formation of family quarters but also fought a 12-hour-long battle with the joint operation party at a heavily congested locality in Samba," said General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 9 Corps Lt Gen Vinay Sharma.
Chief of the Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor also expressed apprehension that infiltration from Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) may increase in the summer months. The infiltration from across the border during 2006 and 2007 was almost same; General Kapoor told newspersons at Tangdar, about 343 militants infiltrated into this side from PoK in 2006 while the number was 311 last year. Intelligence Bureau has blamed the renewed infiltration on the International Border on relaxed vigilance by the Border Security Force.
The firing on the Line of Control by Pakistan is seen as an attempt by Pakistani authorities to push in a large number of militants to increase the level of militancy in the Valley which has been flagging with the casualty figure falling below the 1000 mark for the first time after many years in 2007. A briefing was held by the ISI Chief, Nadeem Taj for the newly elected Prime Minister, of Pakistan, Mr Yusuf Raza Gillani and the Pakistan People's Party Co Chairperson, Mr Asif Zardari at the ISI headquarters recently. The Army chief was also present during this event, seen by many as providing information of ISI activities in Kashmir and the Afghan border rather than taking views on policy matters of the newly elected political representatives.
Keeping in view the possibility of increase in infiltration, Army sources said that additional reinforcements have been moved to the 28 Division in Kupwara from the reserves of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps. They have been located at Tangdhar, Keran, Macchal and Gurez sectors. In addition, the army has asked for more units of the Rashtriya Rifles to raise the number of troops in the Kupwara sector to 30,000.
Meanwhile in continuing violence a number of terrorists were killed in the state in May. In a major success, security forces eliminated seven top militants in two separate encounters in North and South Kashmir on 17 May. While six militants of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) were killed in the Tral area of Southern Kashmir, a Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant was killed in North Kashmir's Bandipur district.
However the terrorists have struck back killing an Army Lt Colonel of the Border Roads Organization in Kishtwar in Doda district. He was working on a project to link up the Kishtwar area with Anantnag in South Kashmir. Analysts were quick to point out that this attack replicated the one on the Border Roads personnel in Nimroz province of Afghanistan.
A team of Hurriyat Conference moderate leaders including the Chairman Mirwaiz Omar is due to visit Pakistan next week. The statesman like Mirwaiz would do well to tell the Pakistani leadership to let Kashmir decide its own leadership through the electoral process. A meeting with the Chief of the Army Staff however may be more fruitful. Some reports say that General Kiyani has been telling Americans that Pakistan Army would rather focus on the Eastern front with India rather than defeating the Taliban.
All in all a hot summer is in the offing in the Valley.
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