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Kashmir clampdown claims being made by terrorists, says Army Chief

Kashmir clampdown claims being made by terrorists, says Army Chief

New Delhi: Army Chief General Bipin Rawat Monday said reports of a clampdown in Kashmir was a claim made by militants — and that the only breakdown in the Valley is in communications between militants and their handlers from Pakistan.

The Army chief also said that Pakistan's Balakot terror camp, which was targeted by Indian air strikes after the Pulwama attack, had been reactivated. He said that at least 500 militants are waiting to infiltrate into J&K from Pakistan.

Speaking to reporters after inaugurating the Young Leaders Training Wing at the Officers Training Academy (OTA) in Chennai, Gen Rawat said the clampdown in Kashmir is "communication breakdown between the handlers of the terrorists operating from Pakistan and the terrorists in the Valley".

"Otherwise, all telephone lines have been opened up… Special provisions are made by security forces for people to talk to their dear ones whenever they want to… So there is no communication breakdown between people to people," he said.

Gen Rawat claimed that reports of a clampdown were projections by terrorists to convey that the government is taking harsh measures in Kashmir. Denying reports of shops being closed in Srinagar, he said shops open their rear doors and that the "front shutters are down because terrorists are threatening shopkeepers" to project the impression of a shutdown.

Gen Rawat also hinted that India could do something "beyond" Balakot. "Let met tell you, Balakot has been reactivated by Pakistan very recently. That shows that Balakot was affected; it was damaged and destroyed," he said.

Asked about the next plan of action, he said: "Earlier, we did something, we did Balakot. Why not keep the other side guessing about what we will do? Why not something beyond that?"

The Army chief also said that "at least 500 people are waiting to infiltrate (J&K from Pakistan)". He said that India is pushing more forces along the border as the infiltration pattern change with fluctuations in weather. "As temperature keeps falling, the snow start coming in… They come to areas which are less snow bound," he said.

Later in the day, sources in the Army said, 450 -500 militants were waiting to infiltrate into the country from Pakistan and that this number is the highest in the last few years.

About 250-270 militants are ready to cross into India at the moment, they said. They said that though there have been reports that nearly 60 militants have already entered India over the last two months, the Army has confirmation for less than 15. There are "very strong inputs" of infiltration attempts over the next 3-4 days, they said.

In Chennai, Rawat said there is an improvement in the ground situation along the borders — "killings are down, violence is down, terrorists are being kept at bay".

"We will gradually start releasing, easing the pressures on people… But let me tell you, I don't agree with those who say that there is a clampdown. If that is true, how is it possible for brick kilns that are operating in the Valley, very close to Srinagar?"

"You go to the Jhelum river, you find a large number of boats in which people are collecting sand, which is being transported in trucks… How will people load, and run these trucks if there is a clampdown? If there is a clampdown, how are these apple orchards seen with heaps of apples which are plucked, packed into boxes and being transported out of the Valley…" he said.

Asked about chances of incursions along the Chinese border, with the second informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping to be held next month, Gen Rawat said they were "transgressions that happened because of differing perceptions about the Line of Actual Control".

(With inputs from Indian Express)



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