The army will now focus on stopping infiltrators at the LC itself
A FORCE Report
There has been an operational shift of the army in the Kashmir valley – from the hinterland to the Line of Control (LC). According to GOC 15 corps, Lt Gen. Subrata Saha, the army’s focus will now be on the LC than the hinterland. This is in consonance with the changed thinking that terrorists coming across the LC should be eliminated at the military line itself than allowed to venture deep inside where possibility of their merger with the population becomes more. What Gen. Saha did not say is that this change has perhaps been influenced by the political requirement of fewer army boots in the hinterland to support (the myth of) return of peace in the Valley.
While strengthening counter-infiltration operations, the army will do fewer counter-insurgency (CI) operations based on real-time information. However, intelligence grids which assist in CI ops would remain intact, since, according to Gen. Saha “the hinterland remains the centre of gravity of CI ops. A terrorist attack in the hinterland has a major psychological impact”, he added.
Meeting with the FORCE team in his office in middle July on having completed one year in office, the corps commander explained that the army had move a big portion of its Rashtriya Rifle (RR) forces from the hinterland to the LC and the fence (Anti-Infiltration Obstacle System), which has been a decade in existence, is being strengthened. “We have decided to upgrade the fence after 10 years. The obstacle and the surveillance elements of the fence which were separate would now be co-located. The surveillance equipment is also being upgraded to make it capable of day and night operations as well as rain and fog resistant,” said the corps commander.
Thus, there are three elements of the altered strategy — the fence, more troops on the LC, and real-time information — which need explaining. The fence, which according to the army has been a game-changer, had a few shortcomings observed over years. During winter months, at the higher reaches where snow during winters is 25 to 30 feet, the fence got buried, broken and even washed away. Having studied the effect of various terrains, the army is putting in material changes to ensure fence longevity. For instance, Gen. Saha said, “we found that thinner wires have more tenacity to withstand snow onslaught.” Moreover, wooden spikes (called Punji in jungle warfare) serve well as an added obstacle ahead of fence.
In addition to reinforcing the fence, “facilities have been set up in collaboration with Israel (from where bulk of land-based surveillance systems came in the aftermath of the 1999 Kargil conflict) in Agra to upgrade (where possible) existing surveillance devices. We have asked the higher up to set up maintenance facilities for surveillance equipment here (J&K),” the general disclosed.
On troops’ deployment, there would now be a three tier arrangement — ahead, along and behind the fence. This is not all. “Troops would continue with day and night patrolling and ambushes so that terrorists who manage to cross the layers of fence get killed before reaching hinterland,” explained Gen. Saha.
Regarding real-time information, 15 corps Information Warfare (IW) personnel have painstakingly built hard intelligence grids by merging, if not exactly living, with the people. Explaining this, Col GS (IW), Col Brijesh Pandey, an experienced officer who has finished three years at corps headquarters told FORCE, “we have an excellent information gathering network in sensitive areas like Sopore, Pallahan, Shopian, Budgam, Baramullah old town and Srinagar old town. The is to ensure that in case of an untoward mishap, the army should be ahead of terrorists’ propaganda to provide authentic picture to the people; even apologise at appropriate level if there has been highhandedness.” Give the importance of 15 corps, its IW cell has its hand full.
Gen. Saha had ready reply to an obvious question asked by FORCE team: what about war? According to the general who holds 345 km frontage on the LC, “we have heavy deployments on the LC where troops are trained in both anti-infiltration and conventional ops. Moreover, we have an operational advantage over Pakistan in air force, artillery, surveillance, most of terrain where we hold heights, and numbers,” adding, “the fence will be useful in war as well. We don’t have to dismantle it but would cut the fence (in addition to existing gates there) to induct troops into enemy territories.” In a matter of speaking, a reverse infiltration.