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Antony: Infiltration may go up in J&K

By Shemin Joy in Hussainiwala, Punjab
Last updated on: May 13, 2008 22:03 IST
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As militants unleashed a renewed blood-letting campaign in Jammu and Kashmir, Defence Minister A K Antony on Tuesday warned the country to gear up for similar infiltration bids from across the border.

"The infiltration attempts will be stepped up in the run up to the crucial elections to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly," Antony said as he directed the security forces to maintain the highest vigil on the borders.

Touring the forward areas on the international border with Pakistan in the Punjab sector, the defence minister said, "Don't expect any let up. We have to be on our guard in the coming summer months as the melting of snow will make infiltration easier."

Antony ruled out any fresh infusion of forces in the election-bound state.

Antonys' remarks assume significance as according to reports the army has withdrawn some forces from the state for deployment on the border with China.

Talking tough on dealing with militancy, the minister told media persons that the renewed large-scale infiltration campaign was apparently aimed at disrupting the election process.

Referring to recent encounters with the militants close to the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, Antony said the pattern was not new.

He said in the past too, militants had made moves to attack security and civilian installations close to the highway linking Jammu and Kashmir with other parts of India.

Antony said militants were not only trying to intrude into the country across the LoC or international border, but through borders with other countries as well.

"The coming months will be crucial. We have to be more careful. It is very important because of the Kashmir elections," the minister said.

Emphasising that the situation in the state was improving "continuously and steadily", Antony said more and more political parties and other groups were joining the mainstream as they understood the importance of democratic traditions. "If the present trend continues, Kashmir is going to have a peaceful and free and fair election," Antony said.

He said the security forces have made "all efforts and preparations" to prevent any infiltration attempts. The minister toured some of the most forward  posts in the sector before paying homage at the samadhi of martyrs Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev.

Asked if the government proposed to make the Hussainiwala border as a second entry point to Pakistan in Punjab after the Wagah border, Antony said there were a number of proposals as part of prime minister's confidence building measures.

Taking note of the infrastructure build-up on the Chinese side of the border, he said the government is taking a number of initiatives. "Unfortunately because of some of our policies in the past, in places like Arunachal Pradesh we could not develop infrastructure. We are now giving top most priority to develop the region," he said.

On China's military modernisation programme, Antony said it was not a "new development" and every country is spending money on modernising its armed forces. "We are also seriously modernising our military," he added.

Asked about installation of towers in high security areas, the minister noted that such installations were made after due security clearances.

He said the government was aware of the difficult conditions and hardships faced by defence personnel and their families and assured that no efforts will be spared to improve their working conditions.

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Shemin Joy in Hussainiwala, Punjab
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