Defence Minister, Army Chief reviewing Kashmir situation

SRINAGAR: Arun Jaitely has advanced his Kashmir visit by a day and is flying with the Army Chief to review the security situation. The visit comes in wake of increased tensions on the LoC especially in the Pir Panchal Valley where rival armies have been pounding on each other’s positions for the last four days.

Reports from Rajouri said the Pakistani gunners shelled various positions in the Balakote and Nowshehra sectors. No loss of life or property was damaged, initial reports suggest. The belt has witnessed two deaths – father and daughter – early this week, forcing authorities to evacuate population from a vast belt to safer areas. Most of these people are living in relief camps far away from their homes.

Deputy Commissioner Rajouri Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said there was massive firing during midnight but right now it is an uneasy calm in the border belts.

Jaitely, India’s Finance Minister is also the Defence Minister. He was supposed to fly to Srinagar for the GST Council meeting on Thursday. However, he has advanced his visit and is accompanying the Army Chief General Bipin Rawat to J&K. “We have not permitted the population to leave the camps towards their homes because it is still risky,” Iqbal said. “The number of people living in the camps has increased. We now have 1795 people from 525 families.” He said the situation is very bad and they are assessing the losses. “BY now we know more than 100 cattle heads have perished which is a huge loss,” Iqbal added. “Crops in the entire belt suffered immensely as entire swaths went up in flames.”

Reports said Jaitley and the army chief would sit in a review meeting to get the feel of the ground. They are supposed to meet field commanders also. The security related meeting will also review the ground situation in the hinterland in wake of a pretty explosive situation prevailing in parts of Kashmir. Authorities have been closing the colleges selectively to stem the unrest taking over the streets.


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