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June 26, 1999
ISI moves to reactivate militant groups in India
George Iype in New Delhi
Amidst growing concern of the conflict in Kargil reactivating the subversive plans of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence across the country, the Union home ministry is chalking out a major internal security drill.
Intelligence reports with the ministry have disclosed that ever since India launched Operation Vijay to flush out Pakistani intruders from Kargil, the ISI has been helping to revive dormant militant groups to execute major bomb blasts in different parts of the country.
Reports point out that the ISI is spreading its wings in Delhi, Punjab, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam.
Ministry officials said the ISI game-plan is to reactivate some of the militant and insurgent groups in these states to effectively carry out strikes at oil fields, airports, railway stations, bridges, communication facilities, water pipelines, power transformers and other vital installations.
"We have definite intelligence reports that the ISI is trying to carry out major subversive activities in India. Such a plan goes well with the intrusion in Kargil," an official said.
In the last two weeks, intelligence agencies and the Signals Intelligence Department of the army have intercepted several telephone calls made by ISI agents from Karachi, Lahore, Gujranwala, Sialkot and Narowar in Pakistan to leaders of the militant groups in India.
Official sources said the ISI has made contact with extinct militant groups in Punjab like the Khalistan Zindabad Force, Khalistan Command Force and Babbar Khalsa International. Calls have also been made to the outlawed insurgent outfit United Liberation Front of Asom and religious fundamentalist groups in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
The government intelligence agencies have also established that the bomb blast that killed nine persons, including three Kargil-bound soldiers, at the New Jalpaiguri railway station last week in West Bengal, was the ISI's handiwork.
While ULFA regularly passes over vital information about troop movement and deployment by India on the Line of Control to the ISI, the Pakistan agency is said to have recruited paid local agents in southern states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
According to the home ministry, as the border tension between India and Pakistan escalates over Kargil, the state most affected is Punjab where reviving militancy is one of the ISI's main tasks. The Nawaz Sharief government set up the Pakistan Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee early this year in an attempt to woo Sikhs in Pakistan.
The PGPC is now headed by Lieutenant General (retired) Javed Nasir, who earlier headed the ISI in Islamabad.
Officials said Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani and Secretary Kamal Pande have held a series of special meetings with intelligence and police chiefs in the past week to chalk out a watertight internal security plan across the country.
The ministry's assessment is that the escalating Kargil conflict and the forthcoming general election have resulted in many "weak and soft targets in India". This is because a large number of paramilitary forces have been moved from different parts of the country and deployed in Jammu and Kashmir for security.
The government is, however, taking no chances as the escalation of the Kargil conflict into a full-fledged war has not been ruled out.
While the ministry has stepped up counter-insurgency vigils in Punjab and North-Eastern states, police agencies have been ordered to strengthen security at vital communication facilities like television transmission towers, airports, railway stations, bridges, oil refineries and power plants.
The Centre has asked all the district magistrates in the country to personally supervise security preparedness in each village. The government has also cleared more troops to be deployed in Punjab and the North-East to counter attacks from militant and insurgent groups.
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