Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Govt trims troop presence along Jammu-Srinagar highway


Even as the Centre is facing criticism for cutting down the number of Army personnel in Jammu & Kashmir under the US pressure, the Indian Army has further trimmed its presence along the strategic Jammu-Srinagar national highway.

Official sources said, “Two battalions of the Central Reserve Paramilitary Force (CRPF) have replaced Army jawans along the only surface link connecting the Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country, while two more CRPF battalions would soon be deployed along the highway after undergoing training in the second phase.” The training of these two CRPF battalions is yet to begin.

Inspector General of the CRPF AS Sidhu, in an exclusive interview with The Pioneer on Monday, said, “After undergoing full two weeks of training from the Army and CRPF instructors, we have taken over the charge of independently securing the strategic NH 1-A between Jammu and Ramban (up to 145 km along the 294-km-long highway) from March 26.”

Sidhu said that immediately after the training the CRPF carried out joint road opening drills with the Armymen on vulnerable locations. The move to remove the Army from along the highway seems part of the same strategy under which the Government pulled out 30,000 troops from the two frontier districts of Jammu region in the last several months.

The CRPF will deploy two more battalions between 145-km and 204-km milestones (up to Jawahar tunnel) soon.

Surprisingly, the fresh relocation of troops has taken place at a time when incidents of militant violence have been recording an upward trend across J&K.  In the recently concluded operation Khoj, the Army had managed to eliminate 16 LeT militants in different encounters in Rajouri district only.

The decision to move out Armymen ahead of shifting of the ‘durbar’ and start of the annual pilgrimage to Amarnath cave shrine in the coming months has also raised eyebrows in the security establishment in view of the surge in violence in the State.

Coupled with this, the spectre of ‘hot summer’ was looming large on the minds of the people in the security establishment even as more than 300 infiltrators have been  eagerly waiting  to cross the Line of Control  after coming straight from PoK jihadi camps.

IG CRPF said, before replacing the Army from the highway duty, the CRPF personnel carried out joint road opening drills for two weeks and learned the art of sanitising the strategic highway.

The Army would, however, still mark its presence along the highway in the form of its sophisticated surveillance equipment used on daily basis to sanistise the highway and detect the presence of any explosive/IED material near the culvert/bridge or under the ground, the senior CRPF officer said.

“The CRPF has initiated the process of procuring its own surveillance gadgetry, but for the time being it is relying on the Army,” he added.

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