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Monday, July 19, 1999 Published at 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK

World: South Asia

Kashmir border 'too long to defend'

Briefing General Malik (third left) on the situation in the Drass sector

India is to tighten security and increase surveillance along the Line of Control in Kashmir, the Indian army chief, General VP Malik, has said.

Kashmir Conflict
However, he warned that the line was simply too long and too rugged for any army to defend it perfectly.

He was speaking in the frontline town of Kargil as Indian armed forces continued to verify the withdrawal of their opponents from across the line in Pakistani Kashmir.

Daniel Lak in Delhi reports on the general's visit to Kargil and Drass
General Malik said he was proud of his soldiers for their efforts and sacrifices during nearly 10 weeks of bitter fighting with Pakistani-backed forces.

But he was cautious about declaring the conflict over.

He said his men needed to ensure that every last remnant of the enemy had left.

(Click here to see a map of the area)

[ image: A small number of villagers have returned, most still think it unsafe]
A small number of villagers have returned, most still think it unsafe
His visit to the front line came as the Indian authorities tried to work out how to prevent another incursion by Pakistani-backed forces into Indian Kashmir - and also sacked those blamed for the last infiltration.

Defence Minister George Fernandes said on Sunday that troops would be posted permanently on the Line of Control all year round to prevent another incursion.

However, defence sources quoted in The Pioneer newspaper in India said it would cost about 100 million rupees ($2.3 million) daily to keep a watch on the Kargil-Batalik stretch.

India already spends more than $700,000 a day stationing troops on the high-altitude Siachen Glacier.

A major reshuffle has taken place in India's external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), in the wake of the Kashmir fighting.

Officials who were responsible for covering Pakistan have been fired or shunted out of RAW, apparently because of their failure to provide advance intelligence on incursions into Kashmir's Kargil region.

Opposing maps

[ image: The peaks had to be recaptured one by one]
The peaks had to be recaptured one by one
As the latest flashpoint appears to have died down, another potential area of conflict has arisen.

It is over a ridge that appears to fall on the Line of Control on Indian-made maps but well inside Pakistani Kashmir on maps produced in Pakistan.

There were however no reports of any military activity and India continued preparations to move some of its heavy artillery back while insisting that its forces remained on high alert.

Indians shot

The tense situation along the front line was highlighted by the announcement that three Indian soldiers were shot dead by mistake by their own side.

A spokesman for the Indian Border Security Force said his men mistook the soldiers for Pakistani troops and opened fire on them on Saturday, in the southern Akhnoor sector.

He said the border guards did not realise their mistake until the following day when the bodies were identified.

Civilians displaced by the fighting are still not returning in any large number to their homes.

They say they are still not convinced that the fighting is over completely and they prefer to remain in safe areas however tough the conditions.

Seeking support

As fighting ends between Pakistani-backed forces and the Indian army, the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, is seeking diplomatic support over Kashmir.

During a visit to Saudi Arabia, Mr Sharif said the Saudis had an important role to play in dispute.

Mr Sharif is reported to have said that the two countries are in total agreement on the steps that needed to be taken to resolve the Kashmir problem.

He was speaking after talks with the Saudi defence minister, Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, in Jeddah.

India opposes third-party mediation in the dispute, saying it should be solved bilaterally.

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