July 1999 News

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Army blasts its way for a permanent stay at LoC

27 July 1999
Indian Express
By: Gaurav C Sawant

DRASS: The Bofors and 105-mm guns have been packed. The sound of shelling hasn't been heard for the past 24 hours. But the mountains here have now started booming with a different kind of a blast. The explosion of mountains being split open -- to construct roads and tracks up to the Line of Control (LoC), and to build permanent prefabricated huts so that the troops can keep a vigil round the year. So even as the process of de-induction of troops has started from the war zone, preparations are on for their permanent deployment.

``Though skirmishes at the LoC are still continuing for dominance of peaks in the Drass sector, there has been no artillery shelling from either side since Monday. The troops have started going down, but we are still very much on our guard,'' said a field commander here. Five battalions had already moved down.

The new posts will have to rely on air maintenance. ``The winters are upon us and there is no time for stocking up for the entire season ahead. We will stock up as much as we can till October but the posts will largely have to be air-maintained like in Siachen,'' an officer at the Drass Brigade Headquarters said.

Meanwhile, engineers from the Army's EME (Electrical and Mechanical Engineering) branch have begun their work. Their priority: to prepare a motorable track all the way up to the LoC. And at places where this is not possible, to lay new tracks to facilitate troop movement.

``Now that we have to deploy troops permanently in the region, we would need to make their movement easier and faster. Supplies will also have to be transported till almost up to the LoC for the troops. The work has already started in Mushkoh Valley, Drass and Kaksar sectors,'' an officer said.

Mountain-blasting machines and material have also been moved up to Batalik. ``We will have to establish posts right up to Turtuk from where the Siachen Glacier starts. The Glacier has had permanent posts for quite some time now,'' the officer said.

The comparison with Siachen inevitably keeps coming up. But one thing, that the field commanders hope, will be different here is the number of casualties. ``The skirmishes here are still on, and will continue, since both Indian and Pakistani forces are adamant, not willing to give an inch.''

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