Tunnel for “Great Escape” on International Border of India & Pakistan – Vimal Mohan

Revival of Militancy in Punjab

On 31st July, 2012, news on a popular channel took me back to my school days when I saw a movie ,”The Great Escape”. It was one of the best war movies I have seen. It is a story of Prisoners of War escaping from a POW camp. Allied troops as prisoners in German Camp who make an underground tunnel without conventional digging tools and they managed to escape from the camp. Soldiers make suitable dresses for themselves to disguise themselves as locals and the use of German Language were the essential issues to learn and remember while executing the escape.

After the escape; how to communicate and where to meet (RV) rendezvous were the main issues after the escape had been successful. How to get the rest of prisoners out from the camp safe and sound was an issue of national importance.

When I heard the issue of making tunnel in Amritsar Sector on Punjab Border in 1983, Khalistan Movement was in full swing. Very few people knew about the seriousness of this issue. Our Senior Intelligence officers who had been out rightly rejecting the inputs of , “Training of Sikh Cadres” in Pakistan by ISI to avenge defeat in 1971; were in a state of shock when the balloon went up. These tunnels were made to smuggle arms in to India. Places were chosen very intelligently by high ISI planners. They took several factors in to account following: –

1-      Suitable terrain, i.e. area providing cover from observation Posts

2-      Area devoid of Gujjars/ shepherd boys.

3-      Selection of suitable post commanders on Indian side (BSF)

4-      Trapping of local double cross agents

5-      Deception plans

6-      Use of Bangladesh Nationals as shields for diversionary border crossing missions.

7-      Planned encounters on borders.

8-      Disinformation.

9-      Deliberate inadvertent crossings etc.

There was one senior officer from IPS cadre who had strong objections in Punjab operations that had in fact done lot of damage in affecting minds of Sikh soldiers, who could have helped in getting intelligence of local areas and limited Trans Border inputs. Villagers were by and large under strong influence of militant outfits like BABBAR KHALSA, KLF, and BTKLF etc. As a result, ISI enjoyed the supremacy in carrying out intelligence, terrorist and ground work for strategic operations. Weapons and militants were smuggled in and out from International Border through the tunnels till detected. It is probably very important for the terrorist’s leaders sitting across the border to meet their cadres frequently and send consignment of weapons to augment their operations. Similar operations are being undertaken by MULTA (Muslim Liberation Tigers of Assam) having Head Quarters in Kokrajhar (Assam) and training camps and bases in Bangladesh.

I have all reasons to believe that ISI is all out once again to promote the Khalistan moment staking claim that India is sponsoring terrorism and anti national activities in Baluchistan.  Pakistan knows for sure that Khalistan cadres have very supporting and favourable environment in Punjab as they have Akali Government in Power who will be under compulsion to provide shelter to clandestine activities in many ways. Khalsa psyche will be exploited once again as death sentences to some of under trials have vibrated the silent issues.

Few BSF officers are undergoing confinement in Tihar jail on account of smuggling of narcotics. Needless to mention that narcotics had always been a most acceptable currency to promote worldwide terrorism; that gets you money, dedicated couriers and gang promoters, border crossers and ready to risk their life for the sake of money and drugs. It is equally essential to mention that there are few retired officers who are reportedly settled in Punjab who while in service had been active in smuggling but never got caught.

It was a strange phenomenon to record that wherever such guys were posted; there was a boom in seizures of Gold and other notable activities. I recall Jammu Sector became very active in 2000 when Kashmir was burning. Joint operations were carried out by Punjab Police and Border security Force in the bordering areas of Punjab and J&K. It was a very tricky issue as anyone could pass on the bucks to each other if anything went wrong or detected by RAW, BSF or IB. Officers took the credit and also made quick bucks. Anyone in BSF or IB with common prudence knew what was going on; but officers were happy making their records of seizures looking beautiful. It was at that time tunnels were also detected in Jammu international border. Militants from across the border could enter from area Samba to Paharpur border and following the”CHOWHS” i.e. nallahs coming down from hills and merging in to River Basantar and further in to Pakistan. There were so many intrusions by militants backed by Regular Pakistan army troops as well as ISI from aforesaid belt, as it is very convenient to move to DODA & KISHATWAR from those nallahs.

It will not be out of place to mention here that in 1971; there was a fierce battle in the area of Basantar, popularly known as , “The Battle of Basantar” in which late Capt. Arun Khetarpal was awarded the highest battle of honour, Param Vir Chakra. Pakistan had made all out efforts to disconnect J&K from rest of Punjab/India by attacking the aforesaid area and making the best use of natural obstacle, River Ravi.

Having known the profile of the area, it is very difficult to digest that the tunnels being made are meant for smuggling of narcotics and gold. Our IB is most of the time busy in collection of Political intelligence to give suitable feedbacks to the Government in power; whereas R.A.W has its own limitations to work within home.

When reports of training of Sikh militants were given by BSF Intelligence Teams, none of the other Intelligence agencies were ready to accept the reality. It was in 1983, that BSF Electronic Intelligence units had also been monitoring the movements of Russian troops in Afghanistan. However, when weapon consignments were produced before people in power; Major Intelligence agencies panicked and started running around. Training of militants from Kashmir and Pakistan occupied Kashmir had started in 1983 in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Border Security Force Intelligence Units had managed to send the Kashmir youth for training to Leepa valley and Muzafrabad. Those who had sent the youths to POK were also decorated with commendations by competent authorities after the aforesaid youth returned after receiving the training from ISI. It was a strange attitude of some officers of a particular community taking no interest in such matters but instead passed on negative reports to the Government.

It took no time when situation went out of control in Punjab in 1980s, followed by in Kashmir in 1990. It is high time to do the correct logical thinking and take appropriate steps lest it is too late. I would like to add, Pakistan army is an army with lots of experience in clandestine operations as they have had attained by active participation in war to throw out Russians from Afghanistan, raising Taliban and now dictating terms to USA. They could motivate youth to take on Russians and win the battle; now, they dare challenge the US military might.

We need to carryout deep analysis of the Muslim strategy in terms of their clandestine attitude and diplomatic overtures. They could give shelter to Osama Bin Laden and at the same time kept their war strategy confined to Muslim brotherhood, allegiance to Muslim cadres. They now have the courage and confidence to go for full blast in Kashmir as they, now, have ample reasons to exploit the psyche of Kashmiri masses.

We can’t pre- empt the action of blasting the bases in Pakistan as USA will not allow us to do so. Therefore, we need to find out an alternative to keep Pakistan engaged in its own soil.

 Pakistan troops open fire on BSF / army posts at their sweet will to push through the militants and weapons. There are thousands of such incidents on record. Under compulsion, artillery of Border Security Force and Indian Army had to fire in gullies to check the infiltration of militants from across the border in J&K.

How long we can be passive on borders; we have to talk business, be practical and ensure that the initiative of Pakistan is contained.

On 6th Sept, 2012, Mr. Nachel Sandhu, Director Intelligence Bureau, while addressing Police chiefs of Various states and CPOs, expressed his concern over growing influence of , “Jaise-e-Mohammad and Lashkare -e- Tayyeba” in India and Punjab in particular. He mentioned that many attempts of aforesaid militant groups to enter India clandestinely have been foiled. He made a reference to the incident of 13th Feb, 2012, when these groups attacked Israeli Diplomat in India, expressing the growing domain of these International militant groups. He expressed his deep concern on the various arrests made in Karnataka. It is essential to mention that the deep routed, “DECCAN ISSUE” can surface gradually. There are large numbers of Youths working in the Middle East who are under the influence of fanatic groups.

It’s our duty to be vigilant whether we are on borders or in hinterland. We have to be proactive and apply our mind to identify, unusual things suspected to be militant related. Use media to highlight the issues, as our officers are very defensive and will not disclose their failures. Issues of national importance should be brought to notice of concerned authorities one way or the other.

To conclude, “All fanatics are bad for this universe” s

One comment


    A well researched and timely article by a very senior and seasoned officer based on his personal experiences needs attention of all like minded people.

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