New Delhi: The Army is considering a possible rejig of troops in Kashmir’s hinterland, with an eye on freeing up more men to beef up deployment along the Line of Control (LoC) as the snow melts and infiltration season begins, ThePrint has learnt.
Certain districts in Kashmir are more peaceful than others and don’t need bulk deployment of security forces, unlike areas where terror outfits are active, said sources in the defence establishment.
While it’s unlikely that multiple battalions deployed in the Valley will be moved to the LoC, sources indicated that the Area of Responsibility (AOR) of specific companies could be expanded.
This would mean that instead of four companies looking after a particular AOR, the work can be divided among two or three companies, freeing the others for redeployment.
A battalion usually has four companies, each headed by a major, with a specified AOR. Each company comprises 100 to 150 troops.
Despite extensive investments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and specialised monitoring systems to be deployed along the LoC, the Army’s reliance on manpower is still significant.
Borders still Army’s primary focus
“The focus right now is the LoC. Whatever terrorists are in the hinterland will remain there. The priority is to ensure that the anti-infiltration grid at the LoC is tightened. With snow now melting, the infiltration season will begin even though there is a ceasefire agreement in place,” a source in the security establishment told ThePrint.
Another source explained that mobilisation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, coupled with the ongoing recruitment freeze, has led to a reduction in the availability of additional troops — another reason the Army is considering changes in deployment patterns.
“The whole idea is that there should be no infiltration or exfiltration. Neither should anyone come in nor should anyone go out through the LoC. Whatever terrorists are holed up within the Valley will anyway be taken on as relentless operations continue,” the second source said.
A third source explained that the redeployment is also being done to ensure that security measures are not the same in areas that have witnessed a reduction in violence.
While refusing to get into specifics about areas that might be affected as a result of the rejig, sources underlined that security dynamics are not the same in the Kashmir Valley. This is why counter-terrorism units cannot have the same presence across districts, sources added.
The protection of borders is still the Army’s primary focus, sources explained, adding that counter-terrorism was a role the Army took up because of circumstances.
“While counter-terrorism operations ensure that peace prevails, focus on the traditional role continues and that is to protect the motherland from external aggression,” said a fourth source.
Dip in terror recruitment in Kashmir
As reported by ThePrint in February, the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir has been witnessing a reduction in recruitment of locals by terror outfits, a first since 2016.
Army records show that 31 terrorists were able to infiltrate into the Kashmir sector through the LoC in 2021 despite a ceasefire agreement being in place between the Indian and Pakistani armies. This number was 36 in 2020, 130 in 2019, and 143 in 2018.
But sources say terrorists have also started using the LoC from the Jammu side, as well as the International Border (IB) in the Punjab sector, to cross into Indian territory.
Meanwhile, the number of terror operatives eliminated by security forces in the valley in 2021 stood at 171. This figure included 149 local militants and 22 Pakistani terrorists.
As many as 62 terrorists have been killed in the Kashmir Valley this year, including 39 with ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), 15 with ties to Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), six linked to Hizb-ul Mujahideen (HM) and two from Al-Badr. Of the terror operatives gunned down in 2022, 47 were locals and 15 had foreign credentials.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)
(This story has been updated to correct a mistake in image.)