September 2002 News

Stonewall LoC during polls

3 September 2002
The Pioneer
Rahul Datta

New Delhi: The government has directed the Army to adopt a proactive stance and stop infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir from across the Line of Control (LoC) in the run-up to the Assembly polls and give a befitting response to Pakistani artillery barrage. Faced with the increased levels of violence ever since the polls were announced, the Government on Saturday asked the Army to shift its focus to the LoC for the next couple of weeks, sources said here on Tuesday. Anticipating a weakened counter-insurgency grid within the State, the Government is despatching additional companies of para-military forces to enable the Army to concentrate on the LOC, it was learnt. This decision came in the wake of the reluctance of the US to rein in General Pervez Musharraf to stop infiltration and dismantle terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), sources said. The Government''s decision also assumed significance as it now realised that the war against terrorism in the strife-torn State had to be won on its own steam and that too militarily as diplomatic measures were not bearing the desired results. The Army was now redrawing its strategy and enhanced the authorised troop strength on the LoC by recalling officers and men who were engaged in counter-insurgency operations in the hinterland. The troops would now perform the dual task of being ready for a conventional war and carry out aggressive patrolling just behind the forward formations to plug all the known infiltration routes, sources said. The change in focus was likely to see many Rashtriya Rifles battalions fighting insurgency getting weakened as officers and men were summoned to the LoC, sources said. The Government, in order to overcome this important problem, was sending more para-military forces to augment the depleted strength. The task of raising a new Rashtriya Rifles was in full swing with the Government sanctioning more than Rs 200 crores. The new division, to be raised in a record time of five weeks, would fan out in the Jammu division by middle of this month, sources said. Defence Minister George Fernandes, meanwhile, said here on Tuesday any attempt to disrupt the polls either from across the border or within would be ''nipped in the bud,'' adding the Government expected a good voter turnout. ''Kashmiris are steeped in politics. They are aware of the significance of the current polls and given such a situation we should expect a good turnout,'' the Defence Minister said after laying the foundation stone of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses building. When asked about his meetings with the Kashmiri separatist leader Shabir Shah, the Defence Minister said this was not his first meeting with the Kashmiri leader as he was keeping in touch with him over the years during his stay in and outside jails.


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