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What really happened in Keran?

October 09, 2013 11:00 IST

Lieutenant General Sanjiv Chachra, GOC, Northern Command, left, with Lieutenant General Gurmit Singh, Commander XV Corps, rightThere are more questions than answers about the Indian Army's Keran operation, says R S Chauhan.

Was the infiltration bid not detected because the army had vacated two old observation posts, he asks.

Why did the infiltrators decide to stay put and fight once they were detected?

Were the infiltrators Pakistani Special Forces?

Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh's unprecedented media blitz on Tuesday may have temporarily blunted the all-round scepticism about the exaggerated claims made by the Srinagar-based XV Corps about a massive anti-infiltration operation against Pakistan-based terrorists trying to sneak into the Kashmir valley, but several questions about the operation remain unanswered.

General Bikram Singh, who has refrained from giving media interviews after taking over as the Chief of the Army Staff under controversial circumstances in May 2012, was giving telephone interviews to prominent anchor-editors of English news television channels, blaming the Pakistani army of direct involvement in the infiltration bid in the Keran sector.

'No infiltration can take place, no activity by any terrorists can take place, along the Line of Control, without the knowledge or the support of the Pakistani army. That is for sure. And all of us who operated in that area, along the Line of Control, know about it,' the general told NDTV's Barkha Dutt. General Singh's unprecedented willingness to speak to the media at length has not stopped questions from being raised.

For instance, analaysts have started asking on what basis did the XV Corps Commander, Lieutenant General Gurmit Singh, claim on September 26 that 30 to 40 terrorists were trapped by the Indian Army in the Keran sector in North Kashmir and that 10 to 12 bodies were lying in the difficult terrain.

A fortnight after that claim was made, no bodies have been recovered from the area even as the army called a halt to the operation in the Keran sector on Tuesday.

Although 8 terrorists were killed in what is called adjoining operations and over 50 weapons of different calibre including over 19 AK series rifles were recovered in neighbouring areas, questions on the original anti-infiltration operation in Keran by the Indian Army remain unanswered.

For instance, was the massive infiltration bid not detected because the Indian Army had vacated two old observation posts and slackened the surveillance machinery?

Also, why did the infiltrators decide to stay put and fight once they were detected well inside Indian territory?

Were the infiltrators Pakistani Special Forces?

Normally, old-timers point out, infiltrators -- no matter how well-trained and well-armed they are -- choose to retreat or scatter once contact is made with an Indian Army unit on the Line of Control since their main objective is not to have a standoff with Indian troops, but to enter the Kashmir valley and create mayhem there.

As the army chief admitted to NDTV: 'My assessment is that, they are going to continue trying this infiltration. Their endeavour would be to pump in as many terrorists as possible for the winter. To keep the situation in Jammu and Kashmir simmering and with that aim, I presume, I am certain that they would continue, infiltration along the Line Of Control. And even certain segments of the international border and that is where our troops are fully geared up.'

Geared up they sure are, but Kashmir watchers have pointed out that despite a massive three-tiered anti-infiltration grid all along the 760-km odd LoC, the Indian Army has suffered at least three major setbacks this year, underlining the need perhaps to recalibrate the nature of deployment.

Two Indian soldiers were killed, one of them beheaded, at Poonch in January; 5 soldiers were killed on the LoC in August and four others, including a lieutenant colonel, were gunned down inside an armoured regiment unit campus in Samba in September, indicating that an emboldened and hardened lot of terrorists are being sought to be pushed into India.

Television channels may have been satisfied and happy with getting the army chief to speak, but the fact is he did not say anything that is not known about the Pakistani army's involvement in aiding and abetting infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir.

As winter sets in and the high passes in the Himalayas close down, infiltration may as well come down, but the Indian Army cannot let its guard down since attempts by the Pakistani army to keep the pot boiling in J&K remains 'uninterruptible and uninterrupted.

Image: Lieutenant General Sanjiv Chachra, GOC, Northern Command, left, with Lieutenant General Gurmit Singh, Commander XV Corps, right. Photograph: Umar Ganie

R S Chauhan in New Delhi