Saturday, June 8, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Weather may restrict India’s options
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 7
With the monsoon fast approaching, India just might be racing against time in exercising various options that it may consider in redoubling its fight against terrorism being exported from across the border.

Defence analysts here point out that the weather may prove to be the biggest shortcoming for India if it decides to give some more time to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to control the infiltration from across the border.

On the other hand, if it decides to launch an offensive against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, it may have just about three weeks to finish the task before the rains hit the plains of northern India, making the task of the soldiers all the more difficult.

Experts point out that although India has put forward the option of joint patrolling with Pakistan along the LoC, the possibility of New Delhi exercising its option to carry out limited strikes across the border still cannot be ruled out. Strikes will not only have to be clinical but also within a timespan where India would be in a position to cover the other regions also in the eventuality of the offensive turning into a full-scale conventional war.

Reports here suggest that the Army has sought permission to carry out strikes in PoK in mid-June but the expert opinion is that the time with India is running out fast with the monsoon having hit the southern states much before the scheduled time. India will have to contend heavily with the weather conditions in the event of the offensive, specially in the plains of Punjab where flooding of fields and roads is a common feature.

Punjab, the experts point out, is a key military staging ground and receives anywhere between 12 to 18 inches of rain between July and September which would also be the period when (and if) India strikes. The rainfall is enough to flood roads and railtracks and also turn the fields into slush and mud, seriously affecting the military operations.

On the other hand, rains reach Pakistan only by the middle of July which would give its army an advantage over India.

Such conditions may also force India to examine other options rather than to mount a large-scale conventional military operation against Pakistan.

According to analysts other options could include forcing a confrontation in the Thar Desert which forms the “middle third” of the border between India and Pakistan.

The other option could be to confine the military operations just to the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir.

Experts say that Kashmir could be an option as the summer is the only time that permits fighting. However, the difficult terrain could greatly negate the advantage India has in manpower and technology.

The final option for India could be a non-traditional operation which could involve air strike and special forces operations.


Reports on strikes in PoK ‘speculative’
Tribune News Service and PTI

New Delhi, June 7
India today described as “purely speculative” media reports that it proposed to launch strikes against terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) even as the intensity of artillery and mortar exchanges across the Line of Control and the international border came down further for the second consecutive day.

Though there was troop mobilisation on the border, Defence Ministry officials said it was not for the military to put any timeframe for any action. The comments came as officials said the level of firing all along the border had come down, with only two major incidents reported during the past 24 hours at Poonch, in which seven Pakistani soldiers were killed and eight of their army vehicles destroyed in retaliatory firing by Indian troops.

India also dismissed as “loose talk” claims of terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) that it had control over two nuclear missiles and squarely blamed Pakistan for this.

“It is for the Pakistan government to put an end to this loose talk. It points to a deeper malaise which Pakistan is suffering from,” Ms Nirupama Rao, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said.

Ms Rao said the threat — allegedly put up by LeT on its website www.markaz — amounted to nuclear blackmail. She said another manifestation of this was the fact that Pakistan was indulging in nuclearisation of terrorism.

Meanwhile, India rejected a US-British military monitoring force for Kashmir and asserted that its proposal for joint patrolling with Pakistan of the Line of Control (LoC) was the “only practical” and “necessary” mechanism to check infiltration.

Making it clear that India and Pakistan had to resolve their problems bilaterally, an External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said, “This is the government’s considered position and there is no dilution to our approach to the issue.” She was responding to questions on reports in British media that Washington was to propose a US-British military monitoring force for Kashmir and remarks attributed to British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon regarding an international monitoring force to patrol the LoC.

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