As operations against infiltrators in Keran entered the 14th day on Monday, sources in the defence and home ministries said these were restricted to combing operations by the army around Shalbattu in Keran sector of Jammu and Kashmir where the first encounter between infiltrators and the army took place last month.
“There has been no retaliatory firing in Shalbattu since October 1. As of now, the army is carrying out combing operations around Shalbattu village to ensure there are no infiltrators lying to ambush the troops,” said a source.
Explaining why the operation was taking so long to complete, a source said the area was situated at 10,000 feet with a Pakistan post overlooking it. “The operation is a deliberate (slow) operation as we don’t want casualties.”
Monday had brought with it a potent mix of coincidences that led to speculation that the situation in Keran was extremely serious with the phrase ‘another Kargil’ being bandied about: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met the three service chiefs in Delhi, and the army held a press conference in Srinagar in which it displayed a cache of arms and ammunition recovered over the past two weeks.
It later transpired that the PM’s appointment with the service chiefs was a routine biannual meeting of the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) that he heads.
The arms and ammunition that were displayed were recovered in Gujjardur and Fatehgali in Keran sector, approximately 4 km and 20 km as the crow flies respectively from Shalbattu.
The area’s altitude (10,000-12,000 feet) and terrain — thickly-forested steep slopes, deep ravines and crevasses — means it can take at least two days to traverse a distance of 4 km in this area.
The PM eventually discussed Keran with the service chiefs during the NCA meeting.
Militants traditionally increase infiltration bids in J&K just before the onset of winter as snowfall makes it difficult to do so once winter sets in.
However, many have been surprised with the severity of attempts made this year.
According to the army, there have been 120 infiltration attempts this year, the highest since a ceasefire agreement was signed between India and Pakistan.
At an earlier press conference, 15 Corps commander Lt Gen Gurmeet Singh said that the latest infiltration was a “massive, desperate attempt”, suggesting that it could have been provoked by the “heavy damage” inflicted on infiltrators in recent months.