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No troops reduction in J&K this winter: Gen N C Vij

October 27, 2003 14:08 IST
Last Updated: October 27, 2003 15:15 IST

As top commanders from the Army, Navy and Air Force began their five-day annual meeting to assess the country's security situation, Army Chief Gen N C Vij on Monday said, against the norm, troops would not be withdrawn from key forward posts along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir this winter.

Top field commanders of the Northern command have recently opposed moves to pull back troops from forward areas in J&K during winter. This is significant in the context of recent intelligence reports that Pakistan is imparting winter fighting training to some terrorists.

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Though the army chief did not elaborate, highly placed sources said that unlike in previous years, troops will not move back from forward posts in the Titwhal, Kel and Machil sectors in Kupwara in north Kashmir and from Gurez and Kanzalwan areas in adjoining Baramulla district

The Army Chief in his brief interaction with the media said that with upgradation of firepower of anti-insurgency units and boosting of surveillance capabilities, the last few months had seen more militants being intercepted as well as a sharp downswing in suicide attacks on military installations.

It is also likely that personnel of the elite Armoured Corp and Mechanised Corp would be drafted in anti-insurgency operations. The Western Command recently came up with a detailed paper on this issue, which may be endorsed in the army manual. Hitherto, personnel from these units were not deployed in counter insurgency operations to the extent as infantry and artillery units.

Also, for the first time, the Army Chief disclosed that the country's political leadership, including the prime minister, was being involved in operational war games being conducted by the armed forces to ensure that there is a smooth chain of command in times of conflict.

"This is not the first time that the political leadership would be involved in the operational scenario, including conduct of war games for future conflict threats," Vij told reporters after laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti to commemorate Infantry Day.

The remarks indicate that the country's political leadership may have been involved in military decision-making during the yearlong Operation Parakram, the deployment of troops on the Indo-Pak border last year.

A five-day top commanders' meet is being held separately and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will address the combined commanders' conference on November 1 when the Army Chief will also give a graphic presentation of the present ground situation, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir.

The presentation is likely to help the government chart its strategy on steps to improve ties with Pakistan and with its initiative to start a dialogue with the Hurriyat Conference in J&K.

The government fears that Pakistani-sponsored groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad would attempt to sabotage the talks.

According to defence officials, other highlights of the nearly weeklong annual conference would be a presentation on the recently established first-ever Artillery Division, which has come up in the Southern Command. It includes three to four missile groups, which are to be armed with short and medium range Agni missiles.

For the first time, the army would also release its new quality assurance manual.

Naval Chief Madhvendra Singh and Air Chief S Krishnaswamy are also likely to make presentations on air and naval power projections.

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