The Army has finalised plans to construct a new type of fence on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir, which will not collapse due to heavy snowfall every winter.
Nearly 350 km of the 400 km-long fence in the Kashmir region gets damaged every winter and has to be fixed in the summer. This, officials say, makes it easier for terrorists from Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir to infiltrate from across the LoC.“We have arrived at this new design after winter trials and are going to put it in place in the Kashmir region. The new fence will be of great help in improving our counter-infiltration posture and minimise infiltration from across the LoC,” Northern Army Commander Lt General D S Hooda told The Indian Express. Funds for the project have been allocated and work on the fence will start this year. The Army hopes to finish construction in the next three years.
Top sources in the Udhampur-based Northern Command said the new design will have night-vision cameras, alarms and visual map displays integrated with the fence. All these will be linked to the nearby monitor room, giving the local military commanders real-time data so they can react promptly if an attempt is made to tamper with the fence.
The Army has also decided — in places where it is feasible — to light up the new fence in Kashmir using LEDs. The existing fence in Jammu has already been lit up.
Senior Army officers concede the new fence will not lead to zero infiltration. “No fence can guarantee zero infiltration, but this new design will definitely bring the numbers substantially down,” a brigadier serving on the LoC said.Official government figures show that till June this year, there was no successful infiltration from across the LoC. This year saw an unusually late snowfall, which melted only in May, thereby making it difficult for terrorists to infiltrate across the mountain passes in May and June. As per official data, 97 militants infiltrated in 2013, while the number came down to 65 in 2014. The fence on the LoC, called the Anti-Infiltration Obstacle System or AIOS in Army parlance, was completed in 2005 and has proved reasonably successful in checking infiltration into J&K. While the fence in the Jammu-Rajauri-Poonch region under the Army’s 16 Corps doesn’t get damaged during winters, the fence in the Kashmir region does.
Repairing it takes from April to August, which means the fence is effectively in place only for three months — from September to November — before the snowfall resumes again in December.
Before the onset of winters last year, the Army tried three new designs of the fence. One of the designs was provided by DRDO’s Chandigarh-based Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE), while the other two were prepared in-house by the Northern Command.
The three designs were tested by constructing one-km long sample fences in Kupwara sector. According to sources in the Northern Command, when they checked the sample fences at the end of winters, they were satisfied with the outcome.
A final design, which is structurally much stronger, has been firmed up by using the best features of the three sample fences. The two major changes from the old fence are in the use of a strong, circular pole instead of traditional iron picket and a different type of concertina coil, which has a double-twisted galvanised mesh added to either side. The method of fixing the concertina coils to the posts has also been modified. The design is modular, which makes it easier to carry the stores, and to construct and repair the fence. For construction and maintenance of the fence, the government has sanctioned three new Territorial Army Engineer battalions for the Northern Command. Soldiers for these units have already been recruited and the first lot, which is currently undergoing training, will be available by March next year to start construction on the new fence.