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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

From Today's Papers - 07 Aug 2013
5 soldiers killed in Pak ambush
Army patrol attacked in Poonch;
Delhi summons Pak Dy High Commissioner
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria & Darshan Bharti
Tribune News Service

Jammu/Poonch, August 6
Pakistani Army’s Border Action Team (BAT), which is an amalgam of Pak Army regulars and Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists, ambushed an Indian patrol and killed five troopers after breaching the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district late last night.

Reacting strongly, New Delhi summoned Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner Mansoor Ahmed Khan and lodged a protest against the attack. The attack was carried out near Punjar post in Khari Gulpur sector under Sarla Battalion being manned by 21 Bihar Regiment in Chakan-da-Bagh area from where the trans-LoC trade between J&K and PoK takes place four days a week from Tuesday to Friday.
“The casualties included a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) and four troopers. The attack was carried out around 1.30 am last night,” said a senior Army officer.
“They (Pak troops and terrorists) clearly breached the LoC and ambushed our patrol party comprising a JCO and five soldiers. While four soldiers and the JCO were killed in the firefight, the injured soldier who survived the attack is in a state of shock,” he said. Another top officer in the Northern Command said, “As a routine, an area domination patrol was sent to patrol the area between the LoC and the barbed fence erected 100 m to 1.5 km inside the Indian Territory to ward off infiltrators. Around 1 am, the radio contact with the party got snapped. It was raining heavily in the area at that time.”

“A search party was immediately sent to trace the patrol and around 5.30 am this morning, the search party spotted five of them killed and one lying injured. They all had sustained gunshot injuries,” he added.

However, no weapons were taken away and no bodies were mutilated, he said.
Another source said at least 15 to 16 BAT men carried out the attack. In a similar attack on January 8 this year, BAT men had brutally killed two Indian soldiers - Lance Naiks Hemraj Singh and Sudhakar - of 13 Rajputana Rifles in Balnoi sector. An officer maintained the ghastly act looked to be a handiwork of 801 Mujahid Battalion, Punjab Battalion and Lashkar terrorists. “The situation was tense along the LoC in Chakan-da-Bagh area, but we didn’t retaliate to the severest provocation,” he added.

Senior Army officers have rushed to the area. An intelligence source confided into The Tribune that Jamat-ud-Dava chief Hafiz Saeed had visited Gurund post around three days ago and spent some time with the Border Action Team. Meanwhile, residents of Poonch today held demonstrations against Pakistan and demanded that bilateral talks and other confidence-building measures be stopped forthwith.
Antony draws Oppn wrath over remarks on LoC attack
Ashok Tuteja/Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 6
Defence Minister AK Antony’s statements in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha today that the attack in Poonch was carried out by “terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniform” sparked a controversy and drew flak from political parties.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said Pakistan was not entitled to the benefit of doubt as it continued to remain in a state of denial. He wondered why the government was providing an “escape route” to Islamabad by stating that the ambush was carried out by terrorist along with persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniforms.

The Lok Sabha saw three adjournments on the issue with the Opposition demanding a structured debate on the consequences of repeated incursions by Pakistan along the LoC. Bitter clashes marked interventions in Zero Hour where BJP’s Yashwant Sinha slammed the Congress for deliberately preventing him from raising a “sensitive national security issue”.

Later, addressing a press conference, Sinha said India must not hold talks with Pakistan at any level until Islamabad abided by its commitment not to allow its territory to be used for anti-India activities. He also opposed any meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly next month.

Earlier, Samajwadi Party Chief Mulayam Singh, who had moved a motion for the adjournment of Question Hour, raised the same matter. He spoke of the Chinese threat, cautioning Sonia against trusting the Dragon and recalling, “Pt Nehru could not bear the betrayal by China and died”. He demanded that the PM should make a statement on continued Pakistan and Chinese incursions on the border.

Defence Minister AK Antony later said that India’s armed forces would not be found wanting if provocative acts continued from across the border. “Our response to Pakistan will depend on the signals coming from that country...the way they address our concerns with regard to the Mumbai attack and the infiltration from across the border,” he said.
It was ‘well-planned border raid’
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 5
An internal assessment of the Indian Army has calculated that last night’s attack on its troops was a full-fledged raid by the Border Action Team of the Pakistan Army and a well-calculated one.

“Nobody will cross the Line of Control (LoC) to conduct an ambush on rival soldiers. It is a raid by well-armed troops of Pakistan,” a senior functionary said.

Soldiers on either side of the acrimonious divide between India and Pakistan know the consequences of even an inadvertent crossing of the LoC. An intruding soldier can be arrested, questioned or even shot dead without a warning. When a group of 20 soldiers cross over in the dead of the night — around 2 am — the motive is a raid.

The attack site near the Indian post at Sarla was across the border fence, but was 450m inside the LoC.

Both armies have Border Action Teams, referred to as BAT in military parlance, which remain near the LoC. The Pakistan Army team did not attack the Indian Army post. It is well-equipped with thermal imagers, sensors and night-vision equipment. Such posts along the LoC typically have a strength of 20-25 soldiers.

An Indian Army patrol team of six soldiers came under attack out of whom five died. The lone survivor is recuperating at a military hospital at Jammu. The Army has spoken to him to piece together the details. There is no report of any Pakistan soldier getting killed.

The Army sees the incident today as an emerging pattern that could hint at troubled times in the future when the US-led forces start withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2014. Rising infiltration attempts along the LoC are putting the Army increasingly under pressure.

Meanwhile, Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia called up his Pakistan counterpart Major General Ashfaq Nadeem over the hotline to lodge a protest.

Army Chief General Bikram Singh will visit the LoC tomorrow, sources confirmed.

Two versions

    An embarrassing confusion was caused as two versions of the incident. The Army PRO at Jammu said in a statement around 3.55 pm: “The ambush was carried out by approximately 20 heavily armed terrorists along with soldiers of the Pakistan Army”
    In Lok Sabha, AK Antony said at 3 pm: “The ambush was carried out by approximately 20 heavily armed terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniforms”
    The Army appeared sure of the Pakistan Army’s involvement but Antony’s statement reflected a doubt. The Army PRO in an email communiqué later regretted the statement and withdrew it
Not prudent to suddenly call off talks with Pak: Congress
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 6
Minutes after the BJP-Congress face-off in the Lok Sabha over the killing of five Indian soldiers on the Line of Control by Pakistan, Congress president Sonia Gandhi made a statement saying India would not be cowed down by “blatant acts of deceit by Pakistan” and demanded that the government should take appropriate measures.

The Congress, on the other hand, officially said it was not prudent to take any sudden decisions on the issue of ending dialogue with the neighbour as demanded by the BJP.

The party said expert opinion on the issue would be sought and country’s future considered before any decision in this respect was taken.

Asked what then was meant by appropriate measures which Sonia Gandhi had sought through her letter today, Congress spokesperson Bhakta Charan Das said, “That is for the government to see and decide.”

Asserting that dialogues cannot be ended suddenly, Das drew BJP’s attention to the Kargil war and the incidents that preceded it.

“Let the BJP remember what happened before Kargil, what their compulsion was in keeping the dialogue process with Pakistan on and what went wrong. India has to progress economically in the subcontinent and for that to happen, a lot of factors will have to be borne in mind before it is decided whether the dialogue process with a certain neighbour should be called off or not,” Das said.

Sonia, meanwhile, clearly called Pakistan’s action deceitful in her letter and said, “The Indian nation cannot not be cowed down by such blatant acts of deceit. We urge the Government of India to take up appropriate measures.”
Topography makes Poonch easy target
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria/TNS

Jammu, August 6
The topography of the Poonch sector, which favours the hit-and-run strategy of Pakistan’s Border Action Team, makes it an easy target for infiltrators.

“The topography of the Poonch sector right from Mahadev to Sabjian remains a favourite turf for Pakistan to try and attempt all sorts of misadventures, apparently with a prime aim to push terrorists,” said a top Army source.

He attributed the recurrent misadventures by Pakistan in the Poonch sector to its terrain.

“The sector has dense jungles, rivulets and ravines. The harsh terrain followed by agricultural fields in forward villages makes it ideal for them to try and push ultras,” he said.

The officer said that Sabjian lies close to the Pir Panjal mountain range from where militants could easily sneak into the Kashmir valley.

There was a large concentration of terrorists on other side of the LoC opposite the Poonch sector, he added.

Though intrusion bids and other misadventures were taking place along the LoC in other areas also, but Poonch remains a preferred sector for infiltration, said the source.

The officer said that down south - from Akhnoor in Jammu district to Kathua - the frequency of Pakistani misadventures remained low while up north - from Rajouri to Poonch - attempts of infiltration have always been more.

In Jammu region, the Army guards 224.5 km-long LoC plus 10 km-long international border, south of Pir Panjal range from Poonch to Akhnoor. The state, in total, has 778 km-long LoC.
When a General came calling
by Lieut Gen Baljit Singh (retd)

As I watched him step down from a helicopter, my thoughts went back to a Fancy Dress show put up by the fresh entrants to the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, in 1955. One of them had dressed as a young mother to perfection and "she" came pushing a pram with the placard "Walking My Baby Back Home".

And indeed there was a cute babe inside, swaddled in a shawl but as the mother stumbled on purpose, tipping the pram on its side, out stepped Gentleman Cadet Jameel Mahmood! Not only was Jameel terribly short-statured but also had a child's face and innocence, which he retained all his life.

Years later, Jameel became GOC-in-C, Eastern Army Command, and came visiting one of his Infantry Divisions that was out on field manoeuvres, not far from Latehar, which is often in the news these days for Maoist-related excesses.

It so happened that my wife and I had purchased and lived in a cottage, in a patch of pristine forest, in the same general area. Our nearest co-habitants were Adivasis, in a cluster of a dozen mud-and-thatch huts which went by the name "Konka", but figured on no map!

Naturally, we were rather surprised at first when a helicopter made several circuits over our cottage and then puzzled when rotors stopped churning, all of a sudden. The Adivasis had never seen a chopper in flesh-and-bones as it were and the two pilots were having difficulty in keeping the crowd at a safe distance, till my intervention calmed them sufficiently.

The pilots carried a note from Jameel, enquiring whether it would be convenient if he came calling on us the following afternoon en route to Ranchi? I scribbled in the affirmative and then drove one of the pilots in my jeep to a better touch-down patch.

No one can imagine the wonderment of the Adivasis on watching the chopper take off! To avoid bedlam I met the village elders in the evening and told them about our friend, the "Burra Sahib", and they at once responded to receive him in a proper Adivasi welcome and also ensure safety of the chopper.

Jameel was at his ebullient best, describing our post-retirement pad as "Jangal mey mangal"; his staff officer was hard put to remind him about the approaching dusk but being one of our best Army aviators he knew where he could cut corners with flying safety. The next day, my wife received a thank-you note tagged to a bottle of Champaign. The CAG of the times was obviously a discreet gentleman!

But who could have imagined that three weeks later, Jameel, his wife and that very staff officer would be reduced to cinders in a MI 17 on their way to pay a courtesy call on the Maharaja of Bhutan?
J&K live: BJP’s youth wing protests near AK Antony’s house
8:15 pm: Salman Khurshid says they will do the ‘right thing’

Minister for External Affairs has done what he does best and spun an elaborate web of words when asked about his opinion on the attack on soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir.

“I feel the concern and the pain and I feel the responsibility because we are in the government and we have a responsibility,” the minister told ANI.

“But we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. We don’t want to create a situation that will become detrimental and destructive of India’s security and peace,” Khurshid said.

“We will factor in every dimension and do what is absolutely necessary in the national interest,” he said.

7: 15 pm: BJP activists protest outside Defence Minister’s residence

BJP activists are protesting outside AK Antony’s residence in Delhi to protest against the attack along the Line of Control and attempted to breach the barricade.
Army chief to review security situation in Poonch
NEW DELHI: In the wake of the killing of five soldiers along the line of control, Army chief Gen Bikram Singh will visit Poonch on Wednesday to review the security situation there.

Director General of Military Operations Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia will speak to his counterpart in Pakistan Maj Gen Asfaque Nadeem to raise the issue of killing of the five Indian soldiers in the cross-LoC attack in Jammu and Kashmir, Army officials said here.

After the incident, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to defence minister AK Antony. The Army chief had briefed the defence minister early in the morning about the incident, they said.

Sources said the Prime Minister was kept informed about the developments since the morning. He spoke to Antony and asked him to ensure that the families of the victims are taken care of.

The Army chief is scheduled to visit the division headquarters in Rajouri and the 93 Brigade headquarters to take stock of the security situation there. He is also expected to meet the commanding officer and troops of the units whose troops were killed in Pakistan's Border Area Team action, Army officials said.

Of the five troops killed on Tuesday, four belonged to the 21 Bihar regiment while one of them is from the 14 Maratha Light Infantry battalion.

The 21 Bihar unit is on its way out of the area after a tenure of over two years and the 14 Maratha Light Infantry battalion will take over the position from it, officials said.

Army officials said the DGMO will raise with his Pakistani counterpart the issue of killing of Indian soldiers. The DGMOs of the two sides regularly talk to each other on every Wednesday.

The attack has taken place around 30-35 km from the site of last attack in January where one Indian soldier was beheaded and another's body was mutilated.

After the incident in January, the Army chief had said that India reserved the right to retaliate "at a place and time of our choosing".

Gen Singh has also asked the commanders deployed on the LoC to respond immediately in case of provocations by Pakistan Army and had said that "I expect my commanders to be aggressive in the face of firing".

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