With intelligence reports suggesting presence of around 250 terrorists across launch pads in PoK, the army along the Line of Control (LoC) has upped its ante to counter any nefarious design from across the border.
Maintaining a high vigil at the forward post in Keran sector, the northern most part of Kashmir along the LoC, troops are maintaining a birds-eye vigil despite ceasefire between the two countries since February last year.
For the soldiers at this frontier, it’s a battle that has to be fought on two fronts — hostile neighbour and harsh winter, which is approaching.
Though the claims of the army that infiltration has reduced in the past few years, officials, who spoke to a group of visiting journalists, said there were intelligence inputs about the presence of about 250 terrorists at various launch pads waiting across the LoC to sneak in.
“So, we cannot let our guard down,” one of the army officials said.
Besides infiltration of terrorists, the army is also worried about the flow of drugs from across the border. Recently, Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police Dilbag Singh had said smuggling of drugs from across the border is on the rise and Pakistan is using it to fund terrorism in Kashmir.
The army officer said “we are keeping a close eye on the smuggling of narcotics as well apart from infiltration of terrorists and arms and ammunition. The enemy has its ways, but we are firm and ever ready to defend our motherland.”
And with the winter not far away, the battle is about to get tougher.
“It is a tough fight. Life in these terrains is very difficult,” a soldier guarding one of the posts here, in Keran Sector in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir told PTI.
These Army posts – some at the highest altitude of about 12,000 feet – are the first line of defence against the intruders in these infamous, traditional routes of infiltration. These infiltration routes converge at the mighty Shamsabari range.
The range with its mighty peaks, rugged mountains, thick forests with dense vegetation, and several streams, poses a difficult challenge, to the forces, of both the kind – the nature as well as of the man.
“Apart from the topography, the weather here is very harsh, it is extreme. We have too much cold here when it snows. The snow can accumulate up to 20 feet and remain there for about three-four months,” an army officer said.
The soldiers and officers as well as the posts cannot be identified for strategic reasons.
For the months of the winter, the forces at such posts or their base camps have to stock up the essentials as the road gets cut-off due to heavy snow. For those months, helicopters/ choppers are the only mode of transportation.
“The road, many bunkers and other infrastructure is not even visible when the snow accumulates. There are high-poles which act as markers for us in such situations when we have to move,” the officer said.
Notwithstanding the nature, the officer said, the duty to protect the motherland is the priority and has to be performed in any case.
“The duty at the forward post can sometimes stretch several hours especially if there is an input (terrorists movement),” he said.
While the infiltration has remained largely under control so far this year helped by the ceasefire agreement in the February of 2021 the possibility of Pakistan would return its old ways of making increased attempts to sneak more terrorists ahead of the winter.
The winter months from November till February or even March are difficult times for infiltration because of the heavy snow. The high-altitude areas in the valley receive heavy snowfall which can accumulate up to around 30 feet in many areas.
“There is always this apprehension, this possibility, that before the snow sets in, Pakistan may try to increase the infiltration,” officials in the security establishment said, adding it has been happening over the years and there is no surety that it will not happen again, they added.
They, however, said, the counter-infiltration grid was strong and the security forces were alert to thwart any such designs.
“We are alert to any such situation. The AIOS (anti-infiltration obstacle system) is robust and we are keeping a close vigil especially on the known tracks (of infiltration),” they said.
The reiteration of the ceasefire agreement by the two armies has helped the army on this side to keep a check on infiltration, but the guard is not being let down.
“Yes, the ceasefire has helped. The Pakistani Army would usually try to provide a cover to the infiltrators by firing on our posts when there was no ceasefire. So, that is there. But, ceasefire or not, we have to be alert. We cannot take it for granted,” the official said.
They said a multi-tier deployment was in place to stop infiltration — some of it is physical, some electronic. “It is a combination of man, machine and surveillance,” they said.
Explaining if further, they said apart from the LoC fence, known as the AIOS, there are integrated surveillance systems, including ground sensors, night vision devices, and CCTV cameras to support the robust deployment on the ground.
Of the 743-km long LoC in Jammu and Kashmir, about 350 km is in the Kashmir valley, with 55 km of it in the Keran Sector alone.