Defence Minister visits army posts along LoC

Guv, CM seek Sitharaman’s intervention in vacating of land by army

Srinagar: A year after the much-hyped “surgical strike” by the Indian Army on “terror bases” across the Line of Control (LoC), India’s new defence minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, arrived in Srinagar on Friday and visited the forward army posts along the de-facto India-Pakistan border. She also received a briefing at the Badami Bagh cantonment in Srinagar.
According to the defence ministry, Sitharaman, who is on two-day visit to Kashmir, visited the forward posts and “interacted with the troops there”.
The ministry also issued another picture of the defence minister in which she is seen at an unnamed forward post and is inspecting communications and other equipment laid on a table.
Sitharaman was accompanied by Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat in her visit to the forward posts.
The defence minister was given a detailed account of the overall security situation in the Kashmir and along the LoC, the defence ministry’s spokesman said. “The minister visited the forward areas and was briefed about the robust Counter Infiltration posture along the Line of Control,” spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.
“The minister was subsequently briefed by the Army Commander in Badami Bagh Cantonment on the prevailing security situation in Jammu and Kashmir and was given an overview of the Counter Infiltration and Counter Terrorist Operations undertaken in the recent past,” he added.
Kalia stated that the minister appreciated the effectiveness of the intelligence and operational grids and commended the troops on their operational successes.
The defence minister, who is on her maiden visit to Kashmir, was in the morning received by Lieutenant General Devraj Anbu and commander of Srinagar-based Chinar Corps, Lt Gen JS Sandhu, at the Old Airfield, Srinagar.
Last year, the Indian Army had claimed that it conducted a surgical strike on against militant camps across the LoC on the intervening night of September 28 and 29, to avenge the Uri attack in which 17 army personnel were killed by militants. The claim of the surgical strike was vehemently denied by Pakistan.
The Indian army chief has recently warned of more surgical strikes against militant camps across the LoC.
The defence minister is also visiting Kashmir amid the growing exchange of fire between Indian and Pakistani troops across the LoC. According to the official tally, till August 1 this year, there were 285 instances of ceasefire violation by Pakistani forces. Pakistan has alleged that India committed more than 600 ceasefire violations this year up to April 10, which resulted in the killing of more than 34 Pakistani civilians.
Kalia stated that the defence minister complimented the army commanders for the high level of “synergy” achieved with the JK Police and paramilitary forces.
“Later in the evening, the defence minister interacted with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and called upon Governor NN Vohra,” Kalia said.
The defence minister will be staying in Srinagar overnight and will fly to Siachen on Saturday,” Kalia informed.
Press statements issued by information department said that Governor NN Vohra and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti took up issues of land vacation by army in their meeting with Sitharaman on Friday.
The statement issued by the Governor’s office said that Governor Vohra sought Sitharaman’s “personal intervention” for the “return of certain pockets of land to the state government which were no longer required for military purposes, about which he had earlier held meetings with former army chief and raksha mantra (defence minister).”
The statement from the CM’s office said that Mehbooba Mufti pressed for speeding up of cases of land vacation by the army in various parts of the state and release of rent dues in favour of owners whose land is in possession of the army.
“She sought intervention of the defence minister for the return of certain pockets of land in the state which are no longer required for operational purposes by the army and about which consensus has already been arrived between state government and the defence ministry,” the statement said.
It added that Mehbooba also discussed pacing up of work on some important roads being constructed by the Border Roads Organisation. She also pitched for construction of tunnels at Razdan pass on Bandipore-Gurez road and at Sadhna pass on Kupwara-Tanghdar road.
The chief minister also suggested the idea of opening areas like Battalik and Siachin base for tourist activities including trekking, mountain biking, etc.
Sitharaman assured the CM to look into the issues, the statement said.