Pakistan-trained 500 terrorists waiting to infiltrate: Army Chief.
Chennai: Jaish-e-Mohammad’s terror camp in Balakot, destroyed by the Indian Air Force in February this year, has been reactivated “very recently” and “at least 500” terrorists are waiting to infiltrate into India, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said in Chennai on Monday. Adequate measures have been taken to curb infiltration, including deploying more troops along the Line of Control, the Army Chief assured while lashing out at Pakistan for sponsoring terrorism and its repeated attempts to push terrorists into India.
Gen. Rawat’s revelation came on the day when Jammu and Kashmir marks 50 days since the BJP-led Indian government abrogated Article 370, withdrawing the state’s special status, and imposed unprecedented restrictions on movement and communication. While landlines phones in the Valley are functional now, voice calls on mobile devices are working only in a few pockets of frontier district of Kupwara. Internet services remain suspended across all platforms in the state.
The Army Chief, speaking with reporters after inaugurating the Young Leaders Training Wing at the Officers Training Academy here, dismissed the continuing clampdown in J&K as a “façade” created by terrorists, and as a very visible and obvious proof of normalcy in the state, he cited the “heaps of apples that have been plucked and packed into boxes and are being transported out of Valley”.
“Let me tell you, Balakot has been reactivated by Pakistan very recently… Pakistan violates ceasefire to push terrorists into our territory. We know how to deal with ceasefire violations. Our troops know how to position themselves and take action. We are alert and will ensure that maximum infiltration bids are foiled,” Gen. Rawat said. He explained that while infiltration through LoC can be checked effectively, other areas along the International Border are also exploited for such purposes.
Gen. Rawat said that the terrorists, many of whom have been trained at JeM camp in Balakot, plan to sneak into the Valley as part of Pakistan’s design to trigger unrest and project to the international community that the situation in the Valley has been deteriorating after India decided to abrogate Article 370.
As many as 4,000 people have been detained in J&K since August 5 and Internet services remain suspended across all platforms in the state.
Speaking with reporters here, the Army Chief tried to deflect questions about the continuing clampdown in the state by picking up the phrase “communication breakdown” and giving it a spin.
“There is a communication breakdown between terrorists in the Kashmir Valley and their handlers in Pakistan but there is no communication breakdown among people. All the telephones lines have been opened up,” he said.
“There is no clampdown, I don’t agree with this,” he said, and pointed out that normal economic activities in the Kashmir valley, especially the movement of apple laden trucks to other parts of the country, operation of brick kilns and sand transportation
through trucks after its procurement from the Jhelum river, are going on.
“You can go to apple orchards and you can see heaps of apples that have been plucked and packed into boxes and being transported out of Valley... hundreds of trucks have come out. Who is plucking these apples? Who is packing them in boxes, who is loading them into these trucks? And who takes the trucks out from the Valley?” he asked.
He said that flights are operating in and out of Srinagar, and shops, which have downed their shutters because of threats from terrorists, are operating from the backdoor. “They want to show and project to everybody outside that there is a clampdown, but in reality, people are buying essential commodities like dal and rice and they are cooking food in their homes,” he added.
Flights were being operated in and out of Srinagar and other modes of transport like taxis were functional, he said and wanted to know if these could happen in a clampdown scenario.
Asked about India’s response to the reactivation of the Balakot camp, and if another surgical strike may be expected, he said, “Why must you expect repeat of a similar thing? Earlier we did something, then we did Balakot, why must we repeat...? Why not keep the other side guessing as to what we will do; why tell him what we are going to do? …Why say repeat, why not something beyond that.”
The Chief of the Army Staff also asserted that the wrong interpretation of Islam by some elements who wanted to create disruption, is spreading.
“I feel the interpretation of Islam by some elements who possibly want to create disruption is being fed to large number of people. It is not that the religion is bad but the manner in which it is being interpreted for whatever reason is what is affecting the people who listen to those messages. I think it is important that we have preachers who convey the correct meaning of Islam in whatever form it was written by those who wanted Islam to be preached in proper manner,” he said.
On February 27 this year, IAF fighters flew into Pakistan to bomb a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror facility at Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The action came after the February 14 suicide bombing in Jammu & Kashmir’s Pulwama, which killed over 40 CRPF personnel. Since then tensions between India and Pakistan have been high.