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May 26, 1999
Troops sent to Kashmir in anticipation of Pak attack
George Iype in New Delhi
The defence ministry is despatching a large number of army and airforce personnel to Kashmir in anticipation of an immediate retaliation from Pakistan over its aerial attacks on Pakistani infiltrators in Kargil.
A top army official said that "army and airforce units are being flown to Kashmir from across the country."
"The bottomline of the ongoing air strikes is that if and when there is any retaliation from Pakistan, there is a strong possibility of a full fledged war between Pakistan," he told Rediff On The NeT.
"Air strikes are the beginning of every war," he said.
The official said army intelligence has warned that Pakistan may retaliate against the Indian air strikes against the Pakistani militants "any time, any day now."
"The army is in the process of despatching every resource at its disposal to Kashmir," he added.
Official sources said the decision to launch aerial attacks against the infiltrators was taken on Tuesday after Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah briefed Home Minister L K Advani and Defence Minister George Fernandes "on the deteriorating situation in Kargil."
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had spoken to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharief on Monday night warning him that "India will take all possible steps and strict action to flush out the infiltrators."
But an official spokesperson said the prime minister did not specifically tell Sharief about launching immediate airstrikes.
Sources said the decision to deploy fighter aircraft against the insurgents was taken after the Indian army for the first time acknowledged that "it is an alarming situation there." Some 600 infiltrators are inside Kargil; 400 militants are believed to be across the Line of Control.
"We hope we will be able to recover the higher ridgelines in the Batalik, Drass, Kaksar and Mushkoh from the insurgents with these air strikes," the army official said.
A defence ministry statement said the air strikes are strictly within Indian territory and "any escalation of the conflict will be entirely of Pakistan's making."
It said Indian forces have been directed to take action on its own side of the Line of Control. "Should there be any direct or indirect interference in the operations by the Pakistani army or its air force, the Indian defence forces have been authorised to take appropriate action," it added.
Responding to the unexpected air strikes, a Pakistan high commission spokesperson in New Delhi stated that any threat to Pakistan's security will be met by "a matching response."
Unconfirmed reports said Pakistan Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf, who is currently on a visit to China, has been asked to return immediately.
Pak has 'enough nuke bombs'
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