Lt Gen. Gurmit Singh at the news conference in Srinagar on Wednesday. (PTI)
Srinagar, Oct. 2: The army today said it was facing a different kind of infiltration on the Line of Control in which special troops from Pakistan could be involved but brushed aside as “absurd” reports that the transgressors had taken over territory.
The force’s Valley chief, who denied the reports, however ended up sharing details that indicated an explosive situation could be building up in Keran, Kupwara, where the army said it has been locked in an encounter with the infiltrators for the past nine days.
It means the firefight, which has left six army jawans injured, was on even as Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif met in New York where they decided to ask their directors general of military operations to restore a tenuous ceasefire.
“After analysing the methodology, I can only say this is not a pure infiltration. This is BAT (Border Action Team) action-cum-infiltration. The number of militants who tried to infiltrate was rather large. This is quite different from the attempts we have seen,” Lt Gen. Gurmit Singh, GOC of the Kashmir-based 15 Corps, told a media conference today.
“The strength and the intentions indicate that definitely there were some special troops. They are very well trained.”
BAT is believed to comprise special Pakistani troops and militants from different organisations, including the Lashkar.
Asked if these special troops were Pakistani regulars, Singh said: “It will be premature for me to comment on this in specific terms.”
Singh denied reports that Pakistani troops and militants had occupied a village, Shalla Bhat, and some army posts on the LoC in Keran. “I reiterate this operation is under our control…. No village in this area is out of cordon…. My troops are in control of that area…. Any violation of territorial integrity and infiltration will never be accepted by us,” Singh said in Srinagar.
A newspaper published from Srinagar, the Rising Kashmir, reported that Pakistani troops and/or irregulars had occupied three posts vacated by the Indian Army during handover of responsibilities from one battalion to another on September 23. The army has termed the report of loss of territory “absurd”.
“Some inimical elements… have been giving this input of black propaganda,” Singh said.
The location of the village is disputed. While Pakistan claims it is well within its area, the Indian posts are cheek by jowl with the village.
The village itself had been abandoned some 20 years back because of frequent exchanges of fire and, according to an officer, was in an “informal” no-man’s land.
Singh’s media conference came a day after Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire on the LoC in the Poonch sector of Jammu, triggering an hour-long exchange of fire. But it is in Kupwara where the ongoing operation against a group of 30 to 40 armed men is emerging as a big concern for the army.
The army claims to have killed around 12 of these infiltrators but it is not clear if the slain militants were part of the 30-40-strong group. Their bodies have not been retrieved either, though the officer said retrieving their bodies was of “no consequence” to him.
The officer also spoke of a “riddle” his men encountered when a fresh group of 10-12 militants from across the border “cropped up yesterday night within the cordon”.
“…This area is very rugged. There are a lot of crevices and small caves…. We are looking where these people cropped up yesterday night within the cordon. We will solve this riddle for you,” he said.
Army sources in Delhi confirmed that a major counter-infiltration operation was still on after Indian troops found evidence of movement of about 30 suspected militants.
The army says there have been more than 150 ceasefire violations this year but is not sure if all the firing was by the Pakistan Army or by suspected militants trying to enter Kashmir.
The army believes Pakistani troops have been giving firing support to the militants.
The DGMOs, who have been asked to ensure the ceasefire holds, are likely to meet later this month.