Tuesday, May 21, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Army needs just 2-day notice
Offensive against Pakistan
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 20
The Indian Army is understood to have told the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) that it required just two days’ notice to launch any kind of offensive against Pakistan, but the CCS is still to take a final decision on the military option.

In the meanwhile, the Vajpayee government has decided to launch a fresh phase of diplomatic offensive against Pakistan to mobilise international opinion while simultaneously preparing for any military conflict — whether a full-scale or a limited offensive.

Well-placed sources here disclosed today that an important aspect that had been engaging the attention of the country’s top political and military leadership was countering a possible nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) attack from Pakistan.

Different military options and Pakistan’s possible military strategy — both pre-emptive and counter response — were discussed in detail at the two meetings of the CCS on two consecutive days over the weekend, sources said.

Union Home Minister L.K. Advani and Defence Minister George Fernandes are understood to have advocated strongly the need for mounting some military action against Pakistan even if it were to lead to a full-scale war.

However, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and Principal Secretary to PM and National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra are believed to have cautioned against the military option for the time being. In their view, the few available diplomatic options should be exhausted first while simultaneously launching a diplomatic offensive to mobilise international opinion.

Sources said Mr Advani’s view was that the May 14 Kaluchak incident should be treated as the last straw. Inaction even after the Kaluchak incident would be bad not only for the government but for the Indian state too as it would reflect India as a soft state.

The Home Minister pointed out that the seriousness of the Kaluchak incident should not be belittled because this time the families of the Army personnel had been targeted. Mr Advani last week told Parliament that the government viewed Kaluchak terrorist strikes on par with the December 13 terrorist attack on Parliament.

The Army, Air Force and Navy are understood to have conveyed to the CCS their combat preparedness and the high morale of the jawans and officers. The three services have also made it clear that they were ready for any eventuality and fully competent to achieve whatever political and military objectives the political executive set for them.


More IAF squadrons deployed
Tribune News Service

Jammu, May 20
Following reports that more than 12,000 Pakistani troops have been deployed in the “thrust area” across Poonch and Rajouri sectors, the Indian Air Force has received the thumbs-up signal with the deployment of additional squadrons in the Northern Command.

Highly placed official sources said Pakistan had started a military exercise across Poonch and Rajouri sectors, camouflaging its real plan of deploying more than 12,000 soldiers trained in mountain warfare. Like in the 1965 war, the enemy forces may target the Chhamb area for intrusion into the Indian territory.

The sources said besides tanks, armoured cars, short and medium-range missiles had been installed in areas across Poonch, Rajouri, Kupwara and Uri sectors. This has provoked the Indian defence authorities to complete missile deployment on this side of the LoC, not only in Jammu and Kashmir but also in those states whose boundaries touch Pakistani territory.

“The get-ready stage is over. It is now time to start and go,” the sources said, referring to the “war preparations” being made by both sides.

The sources, referring to the intermittent but heavy firing and shelling from across Uri, Kupwara, Gurez and Karnah during the past 24 hours, said the Pakistani troops had remained inactive in these sectors during the past over four months. Once the snow melted and the border routes became passable, the Pakistani forces resorted to heavy mortar and artillery shelling to provide fire cover to the militants.

According to these sources, more than 100 infiltrators have crossed into Kashmir from across Uri, Kupwara, Gurez and Karnah during the past week. They said the enemy troops also resorted to heavy firing and shelling from across the LoC and the IB in the Jammu sector to push into the Indian territory groups of militants.

They made it clear that while the Indian troops were ready to meet any challenge from across the border, the security forces deployed within the state had been given clear instructions to step up operations against the militants. As a result of these operations, more than 50 militants, most of them belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, have been eliminated in different parts of Jammu and Kashmir during the past 72 hours.

The sources said a “battle of wits” was on between the militants and the security forces within the state, adding that during the past 10 days, militants, too, had stepped up their activities. Even the areas that had been “sanitised” a year ago have started witnessing militancy-related incidents of violence.

The sources explained that if India was left with no option but to strike, it would not be with the purpose of grabbing any stretch of the Pakistani territory. Instead, terrorist camps and field units providing assistance to infiltrators were to be targeted. “It will be an exercise on the pattern employed by the US forces while targeting terrorists camps in Afghanistan”, the sources said, adding that it was in this context that the IAF was being prepared to play a key role in counter-insurgency operations.


Army asked to consult War Book

New Delhi, May 20
Union Home Minister L.K. Advani said today the Army had been asked to consult the War Book and the Merchant Navy had been brought under the operational command of the Navy.

“Certainly,” the Home Minister told reporters when specifically asked whether the Army had been asked to consult the War Book. The War Book, a highly confidential document, contains the day-to-day records of past wars, including battle plans, strategies and actions of both sides, and is maintained at the headquarters of all regiments. It is usually consulted only when the Army gets ready for war. Asked about the redeployment of para-military troops, he said: “They have all been brought under the Army command.” PTI 

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