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LoC fencing in Jammu nearing completion

By Vinay Kumar

BHIMBARGALI SECTOR (JAMMU), JAN. 31. Even as the ceasefire on the India-Pakistan border has held ground for the past two months halting the firing that used to be a regular feature in areas near the Line of Control (LoC), the Indian troops have been braving tough terrain, forest cover, hostile enemy and inclement weather to complete the fencing work on the 285-km stretch along the LoC in the Jammu region.

With the snow-capped peaks of the Pir Panjal range behind it, the forward outposts at a height of 7,000 feet in the Bhimbargali sector in Poonch district face the Nikiyal bulge in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), which is the favourite route of infiltration by militants. Kotli town in PoK, known to have a number of terrorist training camps, and the Nikiyal bulge across the LoC are the launching pad for infiltrators who could sneak in and head towards either Rajouri or Poonch. In the absence of modern surveillance devices and the fence two years ago, a sizeable number of terrorists could manage to sneak in despite round-the-clock vigilance by troops.

"Of the total length of LoC in the Jammu region, we have completed fencing for 185 km and work on the remaining 100 km is in an advanced stage of completion," Brigadier K.V.S. Lalhotra told newspersons accompanying the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, who visited the forward areas on Tuesday last. The Chief of Army Staff, Gen. N.C. Vij, and the Union Home Secretary, N. Gopalaswami, accompanied Mr. Advani.

The nearly 12-feet high fence with concertina wires is electrified and put up "tactically" to check terrorists trying to sneak in. It has built-in alarm and lighting systems that act as "fast alert signals" to the troops who can ambush the infiltrators. Over the past three months, there have been as many infiltration attempts in which all 16 terrorists were killed. "The latest attempt was just 20 days ago in which all the seven terrorists were killed by our troops," Brig. Lalhotra said. The cache of arms seized from them included 60 mm mortars, 8 mm semi-automatic rifles, light Chinese hand grenades, pen pistol and under-barrel grenades, which can be fitted on an AK-47 and AK-56 assault rifle for firing.

Similarly, of the 300-km-long LoC in the Kashmir Valley, fencing of a 125 km stretch has been completed and the remaining is under construction. A contingent of 100 jawans and 200 labourers construct about two km of fence a fortnight in an unapproachable terrain, costing about Rs. 27 lakhs a km. At times, the border fence was erected at night, braving wind and bone rattling chill.

Along with the fence, the troops have taken recourse to a multi-tier security system that has been integrated in the mechanism to check infiltration. When the "mission fencing" is complete, it would act as a force multiplier and beef up counter-insurgency operations. The multi-tier security system would include sensors, thermal imagers and night vision devices apart from electrified fencing along the LoC. In 2002, certain additional surveillance devices were inducted that improved the detection system tremendously. Army officials said that nearly 55 per cent of terrorists were neutralised last year with the help of advanced surveillance devices.

Mr. Advani's visit to the forward areas in the Jammu region, coming within a week of his dialogue with the Hurriyat Conference leaders in the Capital, was meant to convey the message of constant vigil on the border. He also visited the IB outpost at Pansar in Kathua district where six BSF jawans had been killed and several injured while erecting the fence in recent months.

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