Cross-border tunnels in Kashmir: What crawls beneath?

India\'s border forces don\'t only have to watch the landscape ahead but also have to keep their ears pricked for any sign of infiltrators burrowing below ground. They have no technology to aid them in this operation.

Published: 26th September 2016 09:11 PM  |   Last Updated: 27th September 2016 01:22 PM   |  A+A-

LOC-PTI

JAMMU: Infiltrators from Pakistan don't only crawl through the vegetation on the international border to sneak into India. In recent years, they have taken to digging tunnels into Indian territory. The Border Security Force (BSF) has busted several cross-border tunnels in the last few years, at locations ranging from Rajasthan, Punjab to Jammu.

In March this year, BSF personnel stumbled upon a 30 m long tunnel dug by Pakistani Rangers and militants right into Indian territory at the Allah Mai De Kothe (AMK) post in RS Pura sector.

It was the third such tunnel detected by BSF outposts in the last few years. The force, which guards the 192 km long international border between India and Pakistan in Jammu & Kashmir, has written to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to procure a sensor network that can detect underground tunnels and cavities.

While one firm from Israel did come forward to offer its equipment for sale, the deal could not materialise. Thereafter, the Geographical Survey of India (GSI) was invited to conduct a few experiments along the border, but nothing came of it either.

As a result, the BSF has no choice but to take matters into its own hands. It deploys its own precious manpower to dig trenches, clear the wild vegetation and even till the land for farmers along the border fence to ensure that militants do not sneak in through tunnels.

The work is back-breaking for the personnel and diverts attention from their main function of keeping an eye on the border.

Top BSF sources disclosed to New Indian Express that soon after the discovery of the tunnel in RS Pura, a request was sent to MHA to procure anti-tunneling equipment post-haste. "The Israelis did offer us their equipment but it was not suitable for this terrain. We know that there are other companies across the globe who can supply the equipment but so far nothing has worked out,'' one source said.

So now the anti-tunnel operations have to be carried by the jawans themselves. Accordingly, soldiers are divided into teams to scour the land abutting the fence on both sides to look for vulnerable earth. The operation involves digging trenches five ft wide and 12 ft deep to see if a hole in the earth will reveal itself.

And the task has to be carried out along the entire 192 km long international border in Jammu. "We take up this exercise once every month,'' the source said.

Most of the trenches are refilled once the work is done. In some, rain water accumulates.

Days after the discovery of the tunnel in March 2016, the BSF called for a flag meeting with Pakistani Rangers to confront them with their finding. Of course, the Pakistanis protested their innocence. The BSF then made an offer of a joint investigation to find out how, why and who dug the tunnel. "We reminded them again last month but they have never come forward for a joint investigation,'' a senior BSF official said.

Most times, tunnels are chance discoveries, as when they cave in, such as the one found at Chillyari in Samba district in 2014. The infiltrators had bored 23 metres into Indian territory.

The Allah Mai De Kothe tunnel discovered in March this year too came to light during the monthly shrub clearing operations on the border. The BSF had sensed unusual movement of people at the Pakistani border outpost of Afzal on the other side, and an inspection along the zero line revealed a still-incomplete tunnel 10 feet beneath. Officers said it was a well-constructed operation, giving enough room for one person to move about.

HOLES IN THE GROUND

Gurdaspur, March 2001: The first cross-border tunnel discovered by the border forces was in Gurdaspur in Punjab. It ran 135 m into Indian territory.

Barmer, Rajasthan, 2008: This was a tunnel busted by the Jodhpur police in Rajasthan's Barmer sector. Jodhpur: It was probably dug by drug runners. It started in a village on the Pakistan saide and opened right into a village in Barmer district.

Chakla, 2009: This tunnel was found the Chakkla post along the Line of Control. It came to light when it caved in due to heavy rains.

Samba, 2012: This one near Pathankot ran 400 m long and 20 ft deep and had ventilation. The same year, the forces aided by a GSI team busted an even longer tunnel, 540-m tunnel dug into the Indian side cutting through Pakistan from the zero line.

Pallanwala, 2014: A 50-metre tunnel discovered near Pallanwala in Jammu sector.

RS Pura, March 2016: This was a still-incomplete tunnel that burrowed 30 m into Indian territory but fell short of the fencing. It was 3×4 ft in diameter, 10 feet below the ground. It was a professional job, perhaps using machinery.

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