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August 24, 2000
Army does not have enough jammers to counter IEDs in Kashmir
Josy Joseph in New Delhi
The killing of a brigadier and a colonel in Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday by militants has once again exposed chinks in the Indian army's armor, highlighting the need to reorient itself in its long drawn battle against militancy in the valley.
Several army officers in the valley and New Delhi admitted to rediff.com that the attack could not have been possible without the militants being tipped off. Kupwara has been a hotbed of militancy, and traditionally the army has enjoyed little trust among the district's residents.
"That information would have come from a well informed local," an officer posted in the valley said. Officers, especially of brigadier rank, move around in the valley with special escort vehicles at the front and rear. The last time a brigadier was attacked with an explosive device was a few years ago when a jeep carrying Brigadier Bajwa, who currently commands a brigade in Kargil, was blown apart. The brigadier escaped with serious injuries, and still has visible marks of that blast on his body.
"The fact that the vehicle in which Brigadier B S Sher Gill and Colonel Rajender Chauhan were attacked so precisely raises questions about the amount of trust enjoyed by the army among locals," felt yet another officer posted in the valley.
Brigadier Sher Gill, commander 7 Sector, and Colonel Chauhan, Commanding Officer, 21 Rashtriya Rifles, were on an familiarisation tour when they were killed. The brigadier had taken charge of only three days earlier.
In New Delhi, officers at army headquarters blame the lack of technological support to deal with improvised explosive devices. IEDs have turned out to be a nightmare for the army which lacks enough sophisticated jammers to neutralise these instruments of death. An army spokesman on Tuesday said approximately 30 to 40 per cent of IEDs used inflict heavy casualties with "devastating effect."
Although efforts are continuously made to procure equipment to counter IEDs, it is never enough to ensure that the entire area is covered by jammers all the time.
The spokesman said the army has a "limited quantities of jammers imported from the UK. Further import of this particular equipment could not be undertaken as the firm has since closed down."
The army mostly employs mine detectors and steel prodders to detect and neutralise pressure actuated mines and explosive devices. Though it has enough mine detectors, they are not effective against sophisticated IEDs.
Currently, a project is on to develop jammers within the country.
There are reports that General Satish Padmanabhan, who will take over as army chief on September 30, is already holding discussions with senior commanders to effect strategic changes in the army's Kashmir operations. Having served as the 15 Corps commander in Srinagar and the northern army commander in Udhampur, General Padmanabhan is one of the army's most experienced officers on Kashmir.
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