JAMMU - Far fewer ‘militants’ are attempting to cross into Indian Held Kashmir this year allegedly from Pakistan, an Indian army general claimed, contrary to expectations that a drawdown of foreign forces in Afghanistan would result in fighters flooding there.
India has been bolstering its defences along the de facto border with Pakistan, fearing groups fighting the US-led coalition in Afghanistan will turn their energies to Kashmir where it is trying to end a 25-year freedom movement. But Lieutenant General Konsam Himalay Singh, who commands tens of thousands of troops on the Kashmir frontier, claimed there had been no jump in the number of fighters trying to breach the fenced barrier to breathe life into the revolt there.
“I was seriously expecting October-November to be a time for, you know, massive efforts by the ‘militants’ who, according to him, cross over to fight the Indian army. It has not really unfolded in that manner,” he said in an interview at his command headquarters outside Jammu on Saturday. The guerrillas have traditionally ‘crossed over from Pakistan’ before snowfalls close the high mountain passes.
Over the past 10 days the two armies have fired mortars and heavy machine guns in the most serious outbreak of fighting since a 2003 ceasefire.
Singh said some fighters had moved from the Afghan battlefield to try and fight in Held Kashmir but it was nowhere near the flood that the authorities had been warned about. So far 24 fighters had been killed this year while ‘trying’ to cross over. Last year security forces killed 51. Still, Singh estimated there were about 200-250 fighters waiting to cross over from the stretch of Kashmir south of the Pir Panjal mountains that he commanded.
The army aggressively patrols some 40 identified routes and ambushes ‘incoming militants’, officials said.
The revolt in Jammu and Kashmir took off in 1989, the year Soviet troops ended their occupation of Afghanistan.
Asim Umar who leads the South Asia branch of Al-Qaeda declared India to be the new battleground.
“From the land of Afghanistan, a caravan is heading toward India,” Umar, who spent at least 16 years in Afghanistan, said in a video message last June.
“Not on someone’s directive. Not on the basis of some governmental policy. But simply on the basis of abiding by God’s command.”
Busy fighting the Taliban in the northwest, the Pakistan military could lack resources to ‘support’ militants ‘infiltrating’ Held Kashmir, claimed Singh. “There has been a setback in that infrastructure,” he said.