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Pak's demilitarise plea to cover up its losses?

According to Indian military officials the demilitarisation plea is aimed at rebuilding its defences damaged in the earthquake.

india Updated: Jan 19, 2006 11:19 IST

Pakistan's proposal urging India to "demilitarise" the Kashmir valley is aimed at rebuilding its defences and military command, control and communications structure damaged in the October earthquake, Indian military officials say.

According to senior military intelligence sources, the Pakistan Army took serious hits in the quake, losing not only a large number of officers and men but sustaining serious damage to its infrastructure across its Kashmir region.

It reportedly lost around 2,500 soldiers including at least three brigadiers, around 15 battalion commanders and a large number of junior officers in the tragedy that also claimed nearly 80,000 civilian lives, mainly in Kashmir but also in the North West Frontier Province.

The tremors also resulted in the near total destruction of the army's artillery positions, its formidable air defence installations and almost its entire communication networks.

Around 40 percent of the 500,000-strong Pakistan Army is based in and around Kashmir.

Basing their information and estimates on cross-border radio intercepts and human intelligence assets, the sources claimed that the loss of Pakistani military personnel and materiel was confined to Leswa, Kundalshahi, Deolian and Naushera besides Sarpat, Bagh, Hajipir and Chakoti further south.

These, however, were preliminary estimates, and the final tally of military personnel killed could be far higher as could the extent of damage suffered by the army's overall defensive edifice in Pakistani Kashmir.

Realising that India would immediately come to know the extent of damage suffered by the army, President Pervez Musharraf, who is also the country's army chief, is believed to have initially panicked.

He not only dispatched reinforcements to the frontier from the plains after the quake struck, oblivious to the misery of millions of Kashmiri survivors but soon after boldly proposed to India the demilitarisation of the Kashmir valley.

India has already rejected the Pakistani suggestion that New Delhi pull out troops from the Srinagar, Baramulla and Kupwara areas of Jammu and Kashmir.

Since independence in 1947, the now nuclear-armed neighbours have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir in addition to an 11-week long skirmish along the LoC in 1999 in the Kargil region in which 1,200 soldiers died.

"The Pakistan Army's unprecedented losses after the earthquake created a heightened sense of vulnerability in its military establishment," retired Brig Arun Sahgal of the United Service Institution of India said here.

Declining all military-orientated aid from India like helicopters, despite the clamour for them by the quake survivors, was a manifestation of this insecurity, the brigadier added.

Military analysts estimate that it would take at least two to three years for Pakistan to build up its force levels and installations in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

To achieve this, they said, Musharraf feels the need to "defuse" the Indian Army in order to inject a sense of security into his own military.

Consequently, he has aggressively pushed -- and succeeded -- in getting India in the glare of international publicity, to agree to opening up border posts along the LoC to 'neutralise' any possible adventurism by the Indian side.