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Border flurry on both sides

New Delhi, Dec. 25: Eyewitnesses in Barmer, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan and in Ferozepur in Punjab are reporting intensified military movement on both sides of the international border with Pakistan.

But sources in Indian Army headquarters in New Delhi are insisting that there is no order for a mobilisation of forces. “Whatever movement is being reported is normal for this season,” an officer at army headquarters said. “This is the time when we have exercises and a certain amount of movement takes place.”

Senior officers of the Border Security Force have reported “unusual movement” on the Pakistani side of the border. The Pakistan Air Force’s intensified sorties are already known. The Indian Army has also deployed quick reaction teams (QRTs) on some points along the border.

In the procedure of deployments, QRTs precede the movement of bridging equipment — to cross canals in Punjab — and of heavy guns.

In anticipation of hostilities, the BSF is put under the army and so is its counterpart, the Pakistani Rangers. Across border points in Rajasthan, BSF sources said, posts held by the Pakistani Rangers are being taken over by the Pakistani army. During the 2001-02 mobilisation, the BSF was asked to report to the army through a formal order from the cabinet committee on security. No such order is known to have been issued for now.

The army’s 10 corps, headquartered in Bhatinda in Punjab, is also moving assets. The army formation is not known to be an offensive force.

Since the Indian Army adopted a new doctrine, termed “cold start”, a large-scale mobilisation of the armed forces can follow an assault. In 2001-2002 such a doctrine was not adopted and a full-scale mobilisation was ordered.

A large-scale mobilisation is difficult to conceal because it means that not only troops, but also hardware — tanks, cannons, field shelters and ambulances — are moved in railway rakes and by long convoys of road transport. Primarily, it will involve the movement of strike corps from Bhopal, Mathura and Ambala.

The army’s strike corps are its largest formations with extra-heavy contingents of tanks, artillery and troops supported by the air force.

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