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ISI turns its men towards Ladakh

ISI turns its men towards Ladakh

Author: Rahul Datta/New Delhi
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: May 10, 2002

Faced with a determined bid by Pakistan to push in terrorists from across the Line of Control (LoC) in Ladakh, the security forces have sought clear political directions about the fate of the four-month-old mobilisation in Jammu and Kashmir.

Alarmed over the relentless infiltration in the higher reaches of Ladakh region, the last few situation report assessments submitted to the political leadership have cautioned the Centre to lay more focus on mobilisation rather than the forthcoming elections in the strife-torn State.

The report also expressed apprehensions that the next few weeks could see increased killings of innocent civilians and attacks on security forces. The LoC could also see higher rate of artillery firing by the Pakistanis during the same period, sources said here on Wednesday.

The new batches of terrorists owing allegiance to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have turned freedom fighters and the ISI has directed them to explore new routes of infiltration, the reports state.

Battle-hardened in the killing fields of Afghanistan, these fighters are well-versed with mountain guerrilla warfare and can operate in snow clad mountains where the air is thin. The ISI has directed them towards the Ladakh mountains and many of the so-called jehadis have managed to sneak into India despite heavy mobilisation of troops all along the LoC and the International Border.

The military leadership now wants the decision-makers to give them clear political objectives as the field commanders feel the Government should be more focussed on the four-month-old mobilisation rather than working out the nitty-gritty of conducting elections in the strife-torn State, sources said here on Tuesday.

The operational commanders are of the view that a certain section of the local Kashmiri outfits joining the mainstream would not solve the problem. Their hold on the local citizens is yet to be tested and the terrorists coming in from Pakistan would face little difficulty in securing safe sanctuaries in the State, sources said.

The Government did agree sometime back to the security forces' request for using more Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) for monitoring the inaccessible mountain passes. The commanders also got the go-ahead to use massive fire power to deter the terrorists from sneaking into Jammu and Kashmir.

The ground situation, however, has become more complex with the US giving a clean chit to President Pervez Musharraf and maintaining that levels of infiltration have come down in the border State.

The US is also exerting pressure on India to soften its stance against Pakistan and ease off the pressure on General Musharraf. Moreover, he has refused to concede to India's demand to hand over 20 terrorists and criminals wanted here in connection with various heinous offences, sources said. The Pakistan junta has also pushed many terrorists organisations to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) from mainland Pakistan in an effort to deflect international criticism of harbouring militants. They are crossing into Kashmir from PoK thereby providing General Musharraf the leeway to claim that the Kashmir freedom struggle is now on from PoK and he has little control over it.

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