Ensure smooth anti-militancy ops: Jaitley to Army

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Srinagar, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday asked Army to ensure smooth anti-militancy operations in Kashmir and maintain “highest level of vigil” on the Line of Control to “stop infiltration.”

Jaitley arrived in Srinagar this evening to review the security situation in the Valley, sources said. He chaired a meeting at Army’s Srinagar-based 15 Corps headquarters where Defence Secretary (Designate) Sanjay Mitra and Army chief General Bipin Rawat were present.

Top Army officers that include General officer Commanding of 15 Corps, Lt General J S Sandhu also attended the meeting.

An army spokesman said Jaitley was apprised about various measures taken to strengthen the counter-infiltration grid along the LoC. “He was also briefed on the close coordination among all the government agencies towards bringing back normalcy in the region,” the spokesman said.

He said the Defence Minister lauded the role of every soldier serving in Kashmir and “facing the challenging situation.”

“Jaitley urged all (participants) to continue the good job being done and ensure safety of innocent people while dealing firmly with the inimical elements,” the spokesman said. “He impressed upon the Commanders to maintain strict vigil along the LoC and remain prepared to give a befitting reply to any misadventure from across.”

Sources, privy to the meeting, said Jaitley was told that there were “apprehensions of highest-ever infiltration attempts on the LoC this year given the fact that the number of foreign militants have gone down.”

“Jaitley was told that local militants have outnumbered foreign militants following Burhan Wani’s killing and at least 150 to 200 militants were desperate to sneak in,” they said.

They said the Defence Minister directed the officers to ensure highest vigil is maintained on borders so that “militants are pushed back or killed.”

Last year, 361 infiltration bids were registered in Kashmir despite the fact that Valley was on the edge in the wake of Burhan’s killing, officials said.

Sources said Defence Minister was also told about protests at encounter sites to which he passed directions to Army to ensure “zero collateral damage while fighting militants.”

“Civilian protection should be the top priority of our forces,” a source quoted Jaitley as saying in the meeting.

Sources said student protests was also discussed in the meeting that started at 7:30 pm. “He was told that of late Kashmir is witnessing student protests, which sometimes turn violent,” they said. “To this, Defence Minister asked commanders to play their part and engage youth in various extra-curricular activities.”

Sources said Jaitley was also briefed about the impact of ban on 22 social networking sites in Kashmir.

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