May 1999 News

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150 Pakistanis, 90 Indian killed

23 May 1999
Daily Excelsior

The total number of casualties on the Indian side so far has officially been put at over 90. Indian troops, during their major operations against infiltrators from across the border in Kargil sector in the past 14 days, inflicted "heavy" casualties on the other side—one account put the number of Pakistanis killed at 150.

Having dug themselves in on the crest of the ridges, scores of armed infiltrators are said to have posed a serious challenge to the Indian Army. Even as majority of infiltrators, to quote sources in the Defence Ministry, "have now been boxed in", the task of the Indian troops is by no means easy, considering the fact that the terrain is pretty difficult and weather more or less hostile.

Equally hostile is the attitude of heavily-armed Pakistanis who have captured two posts, namely, Shipper’s Alley and Batalik-Satru in the upper reaches of Kargil. These two posts used to be occupied by Indian troops for some time from May onwards every year. This time, after the sighting of small groups of infiltrators in certain pockets of Kargil sector in the first week of this month, observers found these two pickets in the occupation of Pakistani troops.

And according to one report, which has not been denied hitherto by the top brass of the Indian Army, the two posts were captured by Pakistani troops in March itself. Obviously, the undetected march of groups of infiltrators from across the line of control(LoC) started after the two important posts were occupied by Pak troops. These infiltrators – one estimate has put them around 500 – got one full month before they dug in on the crest of the ridges.

That Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had played a major role in organising the induction of armed infiltrators into Kargil sector was borne out by two significant events – first, the unpublished trip to some Pakistani forward bases across Dras and Kargil sections by the ISI chief on the eve of heavy shelling by Pakistani troops on Indian personnel on May 17 and 18 when at least 25 Indians were killed, and second, the stern warning administered on May 22 by Brigadier Rashid Qureshi, the head of Inter-Services Public Relations, that Pakistan would not tolerate Indian attempts to violate Pakistan air space.

Between May 19 and May 22 there was considerable step-up in the armed skirmishes between the armies of the two countries at some higher reaches in Kargil sector, which, naturally, resulted in heavy casualties on either side. On May 19, Lt Gen Krishan Pal, Commander of the Army’s 15 Corps, said in Srinagar that 12 Army personnel had lost their lives in the Kargil operations. Three days later, on May 22, the GOC-in-C of the Central Command, Lt Gen Surjit Singh, said that the Indian Army had so far suffered 70 casualties.

Obviously, the figure doled out by Lt Gen Surjit Singh related to the period till Thursday, May 20. "Just add 20 more to the figure to cover the casualties between May 20 and May 23 as a result of heavy exchange of fire between the armies of the two countries", sources in the Defence Ministry said on Sunday afternoon. These sources confirmed that in view of the tough resistance put up by the Pak troops and infiltrators and also in view of the "sudden" march of additional Pak troops close to the border across Kargil, several companies of additional troops had been rushed to the most vulnerable section of the border(between Dras and Kargil) to deal with the situation arising from the "heaviest" infiltration from the Pakistani side in recent years.

These sources told EXCELSIOR that although the Indian soldiers "are in the process of evicting infiltrators", quite a few of them had held positions and continued to direct artillery fire on to the Indian Army installations in Kargil sector. This, sources explained, also gave credence to the "fact" that most of the intruders are actually regular Pakistan Army troops. What is more ominous is the manner in which the infiltrators managed to establish reinforced concrete cement bunkers on the ridgelines in Dras-Kargil-Batalik axis.

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This Archives is Maintained by Md. Sadiq, 1998

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