India has deployed more than 5,000 additional soldiers to new infiltration hotspots along its troubled border with Pakistan, a top army commander said on Saturday, as security forces combat a recent spike in extremist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.
The ongoing troop rejig along the Line of Control kicked off three months ago after forces noticed an upswing in cross-border infiltration, Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda said. The army’s deployment took a muscular new turn to fend off infiltrators from Pakistan attempting to foment strife and tension in J&K.
“We have moved troops from the Kashmir hinterland to the LoC. Likewise, there’s been a fair amount of thinning out of soldiers in the Jammu region as additional troops have been sent to the border,” Hooda told HT.
He said the deployment of soldiers was a dynamic process based on assessment of threats and evolving terror patterns. Troops have been withdrawn from interior areas where things have improved.
The border state has been hit by a spate of terrorist attacks, including a deadly ambush on a Border Security Force convoy on Wednesday that left two soldiers dead and an earlier terror strike in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district that killed seven people. Investigators said the strikes were carried out by Pakistani infiltrators.
The Udhampur-based Northern Command serves as a nerve centre for the army’s counter-terrorism and counter-infiltration operations.
Hooda said it was not possible to “choke off infiltration completely” but the army was moving aggressively to counter it. Infiltrators, including the Udhampur attackers, have frequently exploited gaps in the fence along the LoC and taken advantage of stretches left unfenced due to topographic factors.
“They are finding fresh routes to slip into India and targeting new areas as witnessed during the strikes in Udhampur and Gurdaspur,” he said.
The emerging pattern of attacks suggests terrorists are spreading out to areas that were considered to be relatively safe. “It appears they want to show that the entire state is in the throes of a problem. We are prepared to take them on,” Hooda said.
He added that the army was on high alert following inputs that infiltration attempts could increase in the run-up to Independence Day.
The army’s Special Forces (SF) too have been assigned a bigger role. Hooda said SF squads had been “co-located with several LoC units” as part of the army’s counter-infiltration push. Reserve SF teams were scattered across other vulnerable locations in the state for mounting a swift and efficient response.