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Militants take Gujarat route

New Delhi, Sept. 24: The Gujarat coast and the long porous Bangladesh border are becoming the new staging posts for infiltration into Kashmir, said officials at an internal session held in preparation for next week’s India-Russia joint working group meet on terrorism.

While militants continue to come in from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the search is on for alternative routes as terrorists have sustained heavy losses with the three new security rings put in place to arrest armed infiltrators, said officials at the meeting.

“Within a few months when we get the electronic fences installed it will be more difficult, so the Inter-Services Intelligence is now trying to get the terrorists in from Gujarat and the eastern states bordering Bangladesh and Nepal,” said a senior official.

Security forces have in recent months inflicted heavy casualties on terrorists trying to cross into Kashmir. To avoid these losses, the ISI has been trying out new routes and reports of reviving infiltration through the Punjab border have also come in.

The Punjab passage had more or less been abandoned when the Khalistan movement petered out, but now all border routes are being tapped by Pakistan, except for the boundary with Myanmar.

The Nepal border is also a popular crossing point, said participants at the meeting, attended by home and foreign ministry officials, intelligence agencies and the narcotics bureau.

The joint working group meeting on September 29 and 30 is being held against the backdrop of stepped up terrorist activity in Kashmir and the Taliban regrouping in Afghanistan.

The fundamentalist teachings of the Taliban are regarded by India and Russia as a major factor for the emergence of Islamic terrorism in the region. Both countries had worked together against the Taliban in Afghanistan and are concerned about their attempts to regroup.

Russia, faced with Muslim insurgents in Chechnya and Dagestan, is worried about the impact of Taliban ideology in the Central Asian republics. India regards the Taliban and Pakistan as the fountainhead of terrorism in the region, though the influence of the Taliban in the Valley is minimal.

The two sides will brief each other about developments in their region — Russia on the CIS states and India on the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Russians have several listening posts in the CIS and can provide valuable information to their Indian counterparts. India can provide valuable inputs on the links of religious and extremist groups in Pakistan with the insurgents in Chechnya.

India and Russia will also exchange notes on their experience of tackling terrorists. The siege on the Moscow theatre is likely to come up for discussion. The two sides are likely to focus on what was done and how in hindsight the operation could have been better conducted. Tackling suicide attacks and handling terrorists holed up in well-constructed bunkers in heavily-populated residential areas are also likely to be discussed.

Another aspect for discussion is likely to be working together in the UN to implement resolutions enacted since the September 11 strikes in the US.

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