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July 24, 1999
For now, army concentrating on shelling enemy positions
Pradip K Bagchi in Mugalpura (Drass sector)
The deadline for withdrawal of Pakistani intruders from the Indian side of the Line of Control expired a week ago, but the Indian Army is yet to see the last of the enemy soldiers vacate the occupied posts. Strategies and plans are now being sketched to achieve total eviction with minimum casualties.
An estimated 60-70 Pakistani intruders are still holding one feature each in Mushkoh valley, Dras and Batalik sub-sectors barely 500-800 metres from the LoC.
''We will go about the task cautiously as we would not like to have casualties on our side at this stage when about 96 per cent of the objectives have been achieved,'' said Maj Gen Mohinder Puri, General Officer Commanding , 8 Div which is in charge of executing the operations in the Mushkoh valley and Drass.
''The feature still under the occupation of the intruders in Drass is of little strategic importance,'' Maj Gen Puri said while conceding that the one in Mushkoh valley did give the enemy ''some tactical advantage.''
In most of these areas, the Mushkoh valley in particular, the Pakistani intruders have laid land mines while retreating compounding the problems of the infantrymen. In the past week since the withdrawal process started, the anti-personnel mines have claimed the lives of a few soldiers while leaving several maimed.
Faced with the ground realities and in its efforts to not risk further casualties through infantry offensives, Indian troops have been pounding these positions with heavy artillery fire. Maj Gen Puri said troops were prepared for any kind of assault though he preferred artillery onslaught for the moment to soften the enemy positions.
The division commander, however, said air strikes were not needed at these positions to achieve the final objective. He also did not rule out the issue of the final pullout being resolved through talks between the directors general of military operations of India and Pakistan.
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