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May 27, 1999


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IAF launches another round of air strikes

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The Indian Air Force today carried out the third round of air strikes against Pakistan-supported infiltrators in the Kargil sector of Jammu and Kashmir.

The pre-dawn air strikes came after a night of heavy artillery firing by Pakistan from across the border, defence sources said in New Delhi this morning.

The air attacks with fighters and helicopter gunships were once again launched in the Batalik, Drass and Mushkoh areas where the intruders, mainly Afghan mercenaries and some Pakistani army regulars, are holed up on the icy heights.

India has said 'Operation Vijay' would continue till its defence forces reoccupy its ground positions. Yesterday two rounds of 'effective combat air strikes' had been conducted, beginning at around 0630 hours.

The defence ministry categorically stated that no bombs were used in these attacks as claimed by Pakistan.

The pre-dawn air attacks were taken out in the general area of Drass, Kargil and Batalik and there was no question of the aircraft going anywhere near the Line of Control, Air Commodore Subhash Bhojwani, director of offensive operations, told the media today.

''Since no bombs were used, there is absolutely no chance of any being dropped in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The Pakistani allegations in this regard are absolutely baseless,'' he said.

Air Commodore Bhojwani and Major General J J Singh, additional director general of military operations, said the attacks achieved considerable success and were effective.

''This is war. It's not possible to lay down a time-frame. We make plans and the enemy makes plans,'' Air Commodore Bhojwani said when asked how long it would take to evict the infiltrators from Indian territory.

Asked about the Pakistan military reaction and whether there was any build-up of forces, the officers said, ''Barring artillery fire and some movement, none of which was provocative, there was no major action.''

Regarding intelligence reports that some 400 men were waiting to infiltrate, General Singh said, ''After the air strikes, I do not think the mercenaries will be tempted to intrude into India.''

''There will be no let-up in the air attacks until we achieve our objective,'' Air Commodore Bhojwani said. He refused to divulge the number of sorties carried out or the weaponry used.

''I would like to reassure that if the other side does not escalate the matter, the situation will remain localised. They are the aggressors and we will use every means and take the appropriate military response on our side,'' he said when asked if the ongoing conflict could result in a war.

Whether there had been any contact between the director generals of military operations of India and Pakistan, General Singh said, ''This mechanism has been used.'' He said he could not divulge any details in this regard.

The IAF is using very ''senior and experienced pilots for these operations to avoid any mishaps and to keep the damage on Indian territory as minimal as possible'', IAF sources said.

The air strikes, categorised as 'successful and effective,' were on targets like tents, logistic stores and suspected hideouts of the infiltrators at heights of 14,000 feet and more.

''Our pilots did a meticulous and professional job despite operating in an inhospitable terrain,'' he said adding that post-strike missions had confirmed the visual assessment.

General Singh said, ''The effectiveness of the strikes were observed by both the ground troops and pilots who have to submit reports.''

''Having analysed the infiltrators' plans, we have concentrated on targeting their weak points. In most cases, the rear positions of the intruders have been occupied by our troops. This way we can isolate them and interfere with their logistic maintenance routes and cut off any reinforcements that are coming to them,'' General Singh said.

Quoting 'reliable information', he said the infiltrators in many of their positions were finding it difficult to stay on and had suffered heavy casualties.

''In some of these positions we are hopeful that we will evict them in faster time-frame,'' the general said. ''We have moved adequate forces to thwart this Pakistani misadventure.''

The government has launched a diplomatic exercise by apprising the envoys of various countries of the reasons for the step. The government also took other political parties into confidence in this regard.

Defence Minister George Fernandes called on President K R Narayanan yesterday and briefed him on the situation.

Fernandes said that New Delhi would think of the Lahore Declaration after flushing out the infiltrators.

Asked what steps would be taken today, he said the army has been authorised to take 'appropriate steps' as the situation unfolds.

Quoting estimates, General Singh the casualties among the infiltrators were very high. Besides, several injured infiltrators were not getting any medical aid, he said.

According to the latest intelligence inputs with the defence ministry, ''more than 160 intruders had been killed and their situation was becoming increasingly desperate and untenable''.

Unconfirmed reports said 200 infiltrators have been killed since yesterday, when the IAF launched its offensive to regain Indian territory.

Air Commodore Bhojwani said there was total coordination between the Indian Army and the IAF. The ground troops identified the targets and thereafter the air attacks were planned.

The Srinagar airport was sealed for the second day today and all civilian flights to the Jammu and Kashmir capital had been cancelled in view of the operations.

In Paris, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh said the IAF planes had not violated Pakistani airspace and that the attacks had been carried out on the Indian side of the Line of Control.


Air Marshal (retd) Kapil Kak on the Kargil crisis. Live! Thursday, May 27, 2030 hours IST.


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'The reality of the situation has not percolated to these very hungry men, women and children'
US, British envoys meet Fernandes
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Tourists can continue to visit, says government
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