Pak strike element on border Indian troops withdrawal ruled out
14 April 2002
The Daily Excelsior
B L Kak
SOMEWHERE ON INDO-PAK BORDER: Indian forces deployed along the country’s border with Pakistan will not be withdrawn. Even the question of allowing some reduction in the troops at this stage does not arise. A ring-side view of what the Indian troops are doing close to the frontier strengthens the feeling that they will have to stay put in areas allotted to them on this side of the border with Pakistan for an indefinite period of time. This correspondent was officially told inside a bunker somewhere on the Indo-Pakistan border that in view of the positioning of Pakistan strike elements close to the border, the question of ''our troop withdrawal at this juncture does not arise''. ''There is no qualitative or perceptible change in the overall situation at this juncture, with Pakistani troops eager to embark upon some kind of mischievous exercise. This phenomenon leaves no room for us to even think of some kind of reduction in our forces'', a top security official said in a reply to a question. Explaining that the troop deployment or re- deployment, is a serious and mammoth exercise involving huge cost, he said: ''it is not like leaving in the evening and returning next morning''. The exercise of deployment has been massive, extending from Gujarat to Kashmir. Naturally, the cost of the whole exercise would run into several thousand crores of rupees. Unabated threats from hostile neighbour (Pakistan) since September last year, followed by Pakistani troops’ provocative actions at numerous places along the border from Gujarat to Jammu and Kashmir since the first week of December, resulted in the intensification of the war of attrition between India and Pakistan. The troops deployment by India, the security official reiterated, was a ‘conscious’ decision taken after a comprehensive and meticulous study of the situation. The military mobilisation can become redundant only after Islamabad initiated drastic measures in this connection. ''We cannot take chances on our defence preparedness, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, after Pakistan positioned its strike elements in several places close to the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB)'', he asserted. The security official justified the laying of landmines at select places along the western border India, though opposed to use of landmines, has found their use as a ‘legitimate’ defence equipment. The official insisted that Indian security personnel had not used landmines in their counter-insurgency operations, in spite of frequent use of IEDs, considered to be landmine variant, by Pakistan sponsored ultras, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir. How can the idea of the troops withdrawal be favoured when Pakistan has already allowed the movement of 7 and 9 divisions of its army towards the Indian border, the official asked. The movement of the 7 division is militarily considered crucial. Did Pakistan only react to Indian troop movement ? ''Not at all'', replied the official. The Pak build-up began the ‘very next’ after the terrorist attack on Parliament House on December 13. And when intelligence inputs confirmed that Pakistani army regulars were dressing in the uniforms of the Rangers and stationed at the border, New Delhi took the decision to move Indian troops. Pakistani troops, backed by Rangers, have already evacuated and taken over more than 80 villages among their side of the border in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Gujarat. Most of the village houses have been found under the direct control of Pakistani troops, particularly across the LoC in Poonch and Rajouri districts of Jammu region from where they are constantly monitoring Indian movements. With the Pakistani Army having to cover shorter distances from its cantonments to its borders, it has the advantage of mobilising much faster than Indian. And as Pakistani forces continued to resort to unprovoked firing, the question of India directing its troops to move away from the border ''just does not arise'', a senior Indian Army officer said near another forward base. The Indo-Pak frontier is tense, even as immediate risk of a major confrontation seems to have been reduced as a result of flurry of diplomacy and persuasive tactics employed by the United States, Britain, Russia, France and China. But the stand off is still fraught with danger. At a time when the armies of the two countries are arrayed against each other, the two sides would generally by engaged in the improvement of defenses and buttoning up their battle procedures for various operational contingencies. Since both sides are in their respective battle positions, strategic surprise is now quite unlikely.