We have just 45 days, say forces
6 April 2001
New Delhi: The Centre's latest initiative on Kashmir will have to yield some positive results in 30 to 45 days, after which our security forces will find it difficult to contain the militants in the summer months. The Army's operational commanders in Jammu & Kashmir have informed the Government that the mountain passes would open earlier than usual this year, as the snowfall level has been just average. The Pakistan backed militants sneak into India from the across the Line of Control (LoC) through these passes in the Pir Panjal ranges. Our security forces, though well acquainted with the terrain, find it tough to maintain a vigil in the rugged terrain as the extremists are helped by local guides. They know practically every nook and corner of these ranges, sources said here on Friday. Faced with increasing levels of violence and the sheer audacity of the militant organisations, especially the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and Jaish-e-Mohammad, the security forces have cautioned the Government that the current ceasefire conditions would be hard to continue after four to six months. They have also reiterated that the ceasefire has so far been a one-sided affair. The militant organisations, including the Kashmir-based Hizbul Mujahideen, have refused to talk to the Government. Moreover, the five and half-month-old ceasefire on the military front has not been accompanied by any credible progress in the political field. Sources said that the die-hard fundamentalists have sustained their onslaught on our security forces, and the militant organisations have not given any indication that they are interested in reining in their ranks or curbing attacks on our boys. The coming summer months, now only four to six weeks away, will see fresh batches of militants - armed to the teeth - joining their so-called Jehadi brethren in the Kashmir valley. The Government has restrained our security forces from large-scale operations against the militants and their sympathisers, and this will prove a boon for the militants. In fact, even now - in the absence of sustained anti-insurgency operations - the militants are finding it rather easy to secure safe houses and bases in urban and semi-urban centres of the strife-torn state. Intensive military operations, including aggressive patrolling and area domination exercises had shown remarkable results during the winter months over the last few years. Helicopter strikes by our troops in the higher mountain reaches denied the militants safe bases, as well as much needed food and rest. Forced to be on the run for long periods, the militants tended to become careless, as a result of which our security forces managed to arrest them, sources pointed out. This year, however, the exercise has not been carried out as a result of the ceasefire, giving the militants a new respite. The security forces had apprised the Government of these ground realities when the ceasefire was extended for four months in January. The Government has, however, allowed the security forces to conduct specific information-based missions. The statement issued on Thursday made it clear that "the forces have been directed to vigorously conduct operations against those who disturb peace and victimise innocent people". Meanwhile, in an interview to a TV channel, General Musharraf again rejected the Lahore peace process, stating that it did not address the main issue of Kashmir. He said the idea of India and Pakistan countries coming closer without addressing the Kashmir issue was not practical. General Musharraf said it had to be Kashmir and other issues and not the other way round. He claimed that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had been fully informed about the Kargil operation and that the Pakistan Army had not taken any unilateral decision. He also denied the Pak Army's active role in the Kargil War, maintaining that it came into action only "after the Indian Army tried to cross the Line of Control". General Musharraf said, everyone must realise that the Kashmir problem was the main source of tension between the two countries, for which they had fought four wars. "Anybody who thinks that Pakistan and India can get very chummy, friendly and cooperative without a solution to the Kashmir issue is not a practical and realistic individual," he said. The Chief Executive said he had even suggested to the then Pak Government that Kashmir be included in the final draft of the Lahore Summit.