Indian MPs face off on LoC fence
By Iftikhar Gilani
NEW DELHI: Two Indian MPs on Tuesday asked the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to review its plans to fence the India-Pakistan border and the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir in view of changed circumstances. Intervening during question hour, Ramdas Bandu Athawale (Republic Party of Maharashtra) and Chaudhry Lal Singh (Congress from Jammu and Kashmir) pleaded with the Home Minister Shivraj Patil to review the border-fencing project.
Athwale said that at a time when the governments and the people were trying to demolish political curtains between the two countries, the fencing might hurt the peace ventures. He said although he was in agreement with the home minister that fencing is being erected to prevent infiltrators from crossing over, Athwale said he was apprehensive that fencing may also put a stop to the air of friendship.
Chaudhry Lal Singh said he did not understand why India needed to erect fences along the borders with Pakistan. “Is Pakistan so strong and powerful that we need to protect ourselves with fences and walls?” he asked, suggesting that Pakistan should have fenced its own borders keeping in view India’s size, power and stature in the region.
Home Minister Shivraj Patil, however, allayed apprehensions of the members and said the fencing will only stop infiltrators and saboteurs. He maintained that his government would welcome friends to this country.
He said the entire 2,008-kilometre India-Pakistan border will be fenced by 2005-06. So far, he said, 1,682 kilometres has been fenced at a cost of Rs 4.20 billion. He stated that the fencing has enhanced the ability to detect and intercept militants and other elements from trying to infiltrate. He said the radio intercepts of militant communications revealed a sense of frustration because of the difficulty in infiltration due to the fence.
Patel revealed that the security forces have detected 30 infiltration attempts by the end of June as compared to 164 and 138 during the years 2002 and 2003 respectively. He said that 20 infiltration bids were foiled, killing 27 militants along the LoC from January to June 30 this year.
He said that by June 15, 2004, at least 893 people were killed in Jammu and Kashmir in 1,224 violent incidents. The killed include 328 civilians, five tourists, 105 security force personnal and 455 militants. During 2003, 2,547 persons lost their lives including 795 civilians, 258 security forces personnel and 1,494 militants. He claimed that during the first five months of this year, the incidents of militant violence have gone down by 12 percent in comparison to the same period in the previous year.
Shivraj Patil also said the government had adopted a multi-pronged approach to contain cross-border infiltration, which includes strengthening of border management and multi-tired and multi-model deployment along with the LoC and near the ever-changing infiltration routes, construction of border fencing, use of improved technology weapons and equipment by security forces, improved intelligence and operational coordination and ensuring specific intelligence flow to check infiltration, as well as coordinated counter militancy measures. He said these efforts are reviewed periodically.