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June 23, 1999
Army brass seek permission to cross LoC
George Iype in New Delhi
Nearly one month after India launched air and strikes and ground attacks to flush out Pakistani infiltrators from around Kargil, the army top brass have put in a crucial request to the government: grant permission to cross the Line of Control to cut off supply routes to the intruders.
In the past four weeks, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government has been showing considerable restraint -- militarily and diplomatically -- to ensure that the Kargil conflict does not spill over to a full-fledged war with Pakistan.
The government managers and military brass have so far maintained that Operation Vijay is strictly within Indian territory and India does not have any intentions of crossing the LoC to dislodge the armed intruders.
But notwithstanding the army's successes in Batalik and Drass sectors, the three service chiefs and military strategists are said to be of the firm view that a final victory in Kargil is possible only if the army is allowed to cross the LoC and cut off the assorted Pakistani supply bases.
Sources said the army's field commanders based in Kargil are pleading with the Chief of Army Staff V P Malik to permit them to cross the LoC and launch swift, surgical assaults to smash the supply bases and routes to the infiltrators.
Though the army has recaptured several vital heights in the past week, many officers and soldiers have become casualties. The high casualty rate is now the major worry of the army.
An officer in the army told Rediff On the NeT that "the Indian solders are facing heavy odds because of the prohibition to cross the LoC. "We will continue to bleed till the intruders' supply bases are effectively sealed," he added.
''At the same time,'' he explained, ''the Indian Army should open new fronts in other sectors such as Poonch and Uri to divert the Pakistani army and engage them with fresh assaults.''
Military strategists have also suggested to the government that allowing the army to cross the LoC is essential to successfully complete the Kargil operations before the onset of winter.
If the conflict drags on for another three months, it will be winter and will bring about an automatic ceasefire as Indian soldiers will be forced to withdraw from the icy heights.
But if that happens, many of the strategic heights occupied by the intruders will be gone for ever from India, according to army intelligence reports.
Officials said the Cabinet Committee on Security has discussed the army's request, but the Vajpayee government has not shown any inclination to permit the army to cross the LoC to dislodge the intruders.
A war with Pakistan will result in direct intervention from the major powers and the United Nations and will push the Kashmir dispute to international fora.
Many believe that after its string of diplomatic successes and Pakistan's diplomatic isolation, the Vajpayee government will not take any hasty decision to allow the armed forces to cross the LoC to complete Operation Vijay.
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