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The Rediff Special/Lieutenant General (retd) Ramesh Kulkarni
'Loss of aircraft should not deter us from achieving our goal'
I think the way the air strikes are presently being conducted is fine. I don't think it could have been done better.
These people are not infiltrators. They have come across and occupied a piece of land. This is not pure and simple infiltration. They are encroachers. Infiltrators come and merge in a place. This is occupation of a piece of land. We should use every available means to throw these people out.
It is an area of mountain ranges varying from 12,000 feet to 18,000 feet. There are very deep valleys in between. Most of the mountain tops and ranges get covered with snow from October to March-April. Lateral movement across the ridge line is not possible. One is forced to follow the ridge lines and the valley. There is no local population living in the area adjoining the LoC. The ranges are not parallel to the LoC. The ridge lines are in various directions. The Srinagar Leh road is parallel to the LoC. Any height occupied this side offers a chance of observation of the road. The guns on the other side of the LoC can be directed by the observers. There are a few passes to be crossed to get to these heights across the LoC. Or one can cross over the mountain tops. The aim in occupying these heights is to prevent movement of troops on this road.
It is an intelligence failure at various levels -- national and local. How did this take shape? It should have been noticed by somebody. We have several types of intelligence. It was a large force that was assembled, equipped and inducted. It is absolutely true that our forces fall back during the winter when the snow falls. When the snow melts they reoccupy their positions.
I think they must have used snow clearing machines and snowmobiles to clear their passage. Or they may have crossed over much earlier just before the winter set in and lay low.
The encroachers may now be moving towards Turtuk to spill over and move in various directions. It is a continuous region of mountains and Turtuk is a village very close to the LoC. They may be trying to ultimately link up with posts near Siachen, which is 250 km to 300 km away. But that is by road. As the bird flies it is much closer. They may be trying to pose a threat to the posts at the Siachen glacier.
There is no parallel to this kind of terrain in the world. Seeing it is believing. I have read that some of the soldiers whose bodies were recovered belonged to the Northern Light Infantry, who are Pakistani regulars. They have mixed regulars with other mercenaries. Some of these people are used to higher altitudes and living at these heights. Our people are not any less skilled. You see they just have to find somebody to break the path and the rest can follow. If they have used machines to cross over than this obviously reflects an organised structure.
It is an expensive task to man the borders with helicopters and planes. You can post people on two hill tops and infiltrators can come in between. But yes we may be compelled now to man our borders differently. We may not have any other option.
I do not think that the Pakistanis can interpret this as a provocation for war. It is a war like situation. It is not war per se. They may wish to feel that way. But it is not as if we are crossing the LoC.
I do not think we need to cross the LoC in this conflict. We should work up to the LoC. We do not need to cross the LoC even if further aircraft are shot down. We cannot fight this war without losses. This war has been forced on us. Just because there have been some losses that does not mean we can blow the whistle. This is a matter of grave importance. Loss of aircraft should not deter us from achieving our goal.
It is not likely that the two aircraft we lost crossed the LoC. When a pilot bails out the aircraft takes its own flight path. It is not like an apple falling from a tree. The aircraft may fall far off course. In a matter of seconds during its glide path it could have well cross the LoC and crashed.
We are a democratic nation. No action can be taken until everybody is in the know. But in Pakistan's case, the three -- the ISI, the army and the government -- are acting separately. Most likely, the other does not know which system is activated. It is likely that this was not a joint venture.
Lieutenant General (retired) Ramesh Kulkarni, who served at Kargil as a division commander, spoke to Vaihayasi P Daniel
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