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May 28, 1999
Spooks had warned Centre of spurt in infiltration
George Iype in New Delhi
The Union home ministry had received ample intelligence warnings over the past six months that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence had stepped up the infiltration of foreign mercenaries across the Line of Control in Kashmir.
Intelligence received by the ministry in December 1998 said the ISI had used "unprecedented methods" to help terrorists sneak into Kashmir and had also increased the number of infiltration routes.
Detailing the ISI networks that abet terrorism in the state, the reports said there are nearly 190 foreign-backed terrorist outfits operating in Jammu and Kashmir of which 15 are "very active".
According to the ministry, some of the main outfits still operating in Kashmir are Harkat-ul-Ansar, Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Tohiba.
At the time, the ministry's reports had estimated that there were at least 900 foreign mercenaries operating in Kashmir, most of them from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Afghanistan. Some others came from Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Iran and Iraq.
The intelligence reports also said there were 21 ISI-run camps in Afghanistan, 47 in Pakistan and 39 in PoK, which were actively involved in the proxy war against India.
According to a recent intelligence report, apart from the 600-odd hard-core mercenaries who have been pushed into strategic areas on the Line of Control like Kargil, Drass and Batalik, some 700 "very active" terrorists are operating in other parts of the state.
It also points out that foreign mercenaries constitute almost half the total strength of active terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir.
While in the last decade the main infiltration route was through Shamshabari, this year the ISI spread the points of infiltration along the Line of Control.
"The ground situation in the last six months definitely indicated that militancy is again on the upswing in Kashmir," a senior home ministry official associated with the anti-insurgency operations told Rediff On The NeT.
He said the shorter spell of snowfall in winter this time might have been the main reason why the mercenaries from Pakistan and Afghanistan could cross over to Indian territory.
Generally with heavy snowfall every winter, the passes in Kashmir remain closed till the end of March. But this time the passes opened as early as January, enabling the terrorists to sneak in.
Army officials said military intelligence too had regularly briefed the top brass in the defence ministry about the ISI stepping up infiltration by mercenaries.
The ground forces deployed in the Kargil area killed an unusually large number of terrorists -- nearly 330 -- in three months beginning January. Of them, 80 were foreigners. More than 130 others were captured while 50 surrendered.
"Never before in the last four years had the Indian Army killed or captured so many militants in such a short span," an officer pointed out.
He said the Indian Army had also seized far more than the normal quantity of weapons and ammunition from these militants. They included higher-calibre Kalashnikov rifles, SAM-7 missiles, rockets, landmines and an anti-aircraft gun.
Defence Ministry officials say the arms and ammunition seized by the security forces ever since militancy began a decade ago in the Kashmir valley could equip more than two divisions of the Indian Army.
More than 30,000 people, including nearly 1,000 security personnel, have been killed in 10 years of militancy in the state.
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