December 1998 News

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Peace and Tourists returning to Jammu and Kashmir, says Army

16th December 1998
The Times of India

MUMBAI: Peace is gradually returning to the Jammu and Kashmir valley, Major General H.S. Mangat, of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry Regiment (JAKLI) said here on Tuesday.

In an informal chat with newsmen, after a ceremony that signalled the affiliation of the Indian Navy's guided missile frigate,``INS Ganga'' with JAKLI, Major General Mangat said that tourist inflow to the valley was also increasing, and this clearly indicated that the situation in the valley was improving.

He recalled that at one time Srinagar used to ``retire'' by 5.30 p.m.. But, now, with life coming back to normal, many of the establishments in Srinagar were open till 9.30 p.m. ``Leh is full of tourists,'' he informed.

Another JAKLI official R. E. Williams said that the army's recruitment rallies in the valley were met by phenomenal responses despite occasional threats from militants.

Earlier, addressing a gathering aboard ``INS Ganga,'' Major General Mangat described the affiliation of ``INS Ganga'' with JAKLI as a historic event. ``The youngest regiment of the Indian army is being honoured,'' he said, while adding that it was the only unit in which had all the troops were from Jammu and Kashmir. Another unique aspect of the battalion was that a temple, masjid and a gurudwara are housed in a single complex, he said.

The main purpose of such inter-service affiliations is to provide a clear idea of the harsh realities of frontline operations. This will help foster greater understanding and feeling of togetherness among service personnel.

According to a special brochure published on the occasion, in 1962 the JAKLI regiment played a key role in the Indo-China war, and in 1965, it was involved in the capture of the Pakistani post, ``Sher Pahar''. It also successfully defended Kargil, Gurez and Kalal sectors. In the 1971 war with Pakistan, four battalions of the regiment were awarded battle and theatre honours.

JAKLI participated in the Sri Lanka operation code named ``Operation Pawan.'' During ``Operations Meghdoot,'' on June 26, 1987, it captured a Pakistani post, ``Quaid,'' located at an altitude of 21,000 feet. After this successful feat, the post was renamed after Subedar Bana Singh, who played a key role in this tough operation. At present, he is the only serving Param Veer Chakra awarded.

Speaking to newsmen on Tuesday, Subedar Major Singh recalled that he had volunteered to be a member of a task force which had been set up to deal with intrusions in the Siachen Glacier. ``The post was virtually an impregnable glacier fortress with ice walls which were 1,500 feet on both sides,'' he said.

In a carefully-executed operation, he said that he led his team through an extremely difficult and hazardous route. ``Moving from trench to trench, we lobbied hand grenades, charged with bayonets and cleared the post of all intruders,'' he said.

Addressing the gathering, Rear Admiral Suresh Mehta, Flag Officer, Commanding, Western Fleet, said that apart from operational affiliation between ``INS Ganga'' and JAKLI, there should also be an affiliation of spirits between men on the ship and those of JAKLI as it augured well for the security of the nation. ``It will be on the front line that our togetherness will be tested. We have had operational co-ordination, but so far it has been in small areas. This needs to be further strengthened,'' he added.


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