Srinagar, May 16: Security forces have stepped up vigil along the border in Jammu and Kashmir amid reports that Pakistan has started pushing in militants.
The heightened level of alert follows a war of words between the neighbours — the ISI chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha yesterday said targets within India had been identified if Pakistan was attacked — and a sharp decline in militant numbers in recent months that the insurgents are desperate to reverse.
We are always on alert but the troops have been put on maximum alert, an official said.
Northern command chief Lieutenant General K.T. Parnaik said the militants had made large number of infiltration attempts over the past month.
There are unverified reports that a few groups have infiltrated already through the traditional routes. Intelligence agencies are monitoring the communication (between militants). It is expected that in the coming weeks, the efforts of infiltration will increase but we are prepared. We are keeping vigil, Parnaik said.
Figures vary on the number of militants now in the state. Parnaik estimated there are 450 to 500 of them but said the number keeps on fluctuating and putting an exact figure is difficult.
State police chief Kuldeep Khoda recently put the number lower, between 300 to 350, and said that was the reason militants looked desperate to replenish their cadres.
The army claims some 700 militants are waiting to cross over. The main infiltration routes, through Tangdhar and Guerez in the Valley, remain closed during winters because of heavy snowfall. Sources said there was hardly any infiltration bid in March and the first three weeks of April.
But security forces fear Pakistan will now push in more militants to divert global attention after Osama bin Laden was found hiding in that country.
In an indication of the increased tension along the frontier, Pakistani troops fired at Indian positions along the international border in Jammu on Saturday night in violation of a ceasefire, killing a BSF jawan. This was the first such violation in a year in the region though such incidents are reported from other parts of the state.