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August 23, 1999
Army to deploy one division along LOC
Josy Joseph in New Delhi
Unable to put in place hi-tech gadgets including sensors before the onset of winter, the Indian army is deploying a complete division, with about 10,000 soldiers, along the Line of Control.
Sources said the promised technologically advanced mechanism to avoid positioning of a large number of soldiers on snowy peaks prone to avalanches and where temperature remains below zero, would not materialise this winter. An army official involved in planning Kargil deployments said, "This winter we are resorting to extensive deployment of personnel. It will take us some time to put in place technologically advanced sensors and other equipment that can be force multipliers."
Sources said the 3 Infantry Division, headquartered at Leh and which was till now guarding the heights along the LoC including Kargil, has been divested of it. 8 Mountain Division, which moved into the Kargil theatre to launch some of the most successful operations during Operation Vijay, will take charge of guarding the heights along LoC. Major General Mohinder Puri, who commands the 8 mountain division, was awarded Uttam Yudh Seva Medal for his leadership. Units under him have won a large number of bravery awards.
Though no specific reason was given by senior army sources about the removal of 3 Infantry Division, headed by Maj Gen V S Budhwar, from Kargil area. It was while the division was guarding Kargil that the intrusions took place. Brigadier Surender Singh, who was commanding the Kargil brigade was moved out of his post during Operation Vijay. Later there were media reports claiming that the brigadier had, in fact, alerted Budhwar of the intrusions, but the later refused to act.
Maj Gen Budhwar's force would now be in charge of Siachen and areas beyond it neighbouring China. Army sources said the replacement is not a "punishment" but a "mere technical decision". The troop strength along the LoC and Siachen now goes up from a single division to two complete divisions with the soldiers numbering about 20,000.
"This winter is going to a really taxing one. We will have to resort to intense deployment of forces along the LoC," an army source said, while admitting that ground and aerial sensors and other hi-tech gadgets would not be in place immediately. The senior official admitted that the "officialdom again seems to catch up". The process of purchasing advanced sensors that could avoid the need of deploying personnel at difficult snow heights "will take some time".
"If sensors are in place, in most of the places we only would need a reserve force at a safe distance from these peaks," the officer said. But, the installation of the sensors, and deployment of instruments and weapons such as the unmanned aerial vehicles and direction seeking radars are not expected immediately, he said.
Meawhile, senior army officers confirmed to rediff.com that no major change will be made in the military situation along the Line of Control and the international border until a diplomatic breakthrough is achieved. "At least until the new government is formed no major change should be expected," a senior army officer said.
The army had begun offensive posturing along the IB when Operation Vijay was launched at the LoC. It had resorted to heavy deployment of ground forces along the IB from Gujarat to Jammu.
After Indian aircraft shot down an Atlantique surveillance aircraft from Pakistan early this month in Sir Creek, the ground troops in and around that region is on a state of high alert.
"The posturing will not change until the diplomatic deadlock ends," said the senior army officer.
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