STATE TIMES NEWSLeh: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said the armed forces will keep giving befitting reply to Pakistan until it stops infiltration over which Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik also warned that the army will go deep inside and destroy terrorist camps. The assertions by Singh and Malik came a day after Army chief General Bipin Rawat said that 6 to 10 Pakistan Army personnel were killed and three terror camps destroyed in retaliatory action by the Indian Army across the Line of Control(LoC) opposite the Tangdhar and Keran sectors in Jammu and Kashmir. Singh was speaking at a function in Leh for the inauguration of the 1,400-ft Col Chewang Rinchen bridge in eastern Ladakh over Shyok River, the highest-altitude permanent bridge in the country. In his address, he also asserted that after abrogation of sections of Article 370 and Article 35A, the Ladakh region will now only “draw friends” and “leave no scope for enemies”. “However, our neighbour Pakistan… Our armed forces have never been offensive on the Pakistani side. We have never done the first firing,” Singh said. “But, by supporting terror activities attempts have been made from the other side to destabilise, weaken and compromise the integrity of India,” he added. And, Indian armed forces have given a “befitting reply” to them, he said. Singh said, “If they do not stop infiltration, our armed forces will keep giving befitting reply until they (Pakistan) stop such activities.” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the government has decided to open the entire area from Siachen base camp to Kumar Post for tourism purposes. The step has been taken to boost tourism in Ladakh and give people a window to appreciate the tough work done by Army jawans and engineers in extreme weather and inhospitable terrains, he said. Singh later tweeted, “The Siachen area is now open for tourists and tourism. From Siachen Base to Kumar Post, the entire area has been opened for tourism purposes”. The Siachen Glacier at the height of around 20,000 ft in the Karakoram range is known as the highest militarised zone in the world where the soldiers have to battle frostbite and high winds. Avalanches and landslides are common at the glacier during the winters and temperatures can drop to as low as minus 60 degrees Celsius.
At the bridge inauguration, Singh said only steel and concrete have not gone into its making, but “sweat and valour” of the engineers and workers of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) too.
They have toiled hard and people should know their stories, Singh said.
The 1400-ft long bridge is the highest altitude permanent bridge that will connect Durbuk and Daulat Beg Oldi and reduce travel time by about half.
The Indian Army had moved a proposal for opening up Siachen to tourists with a focus to showcase the working conditions of troops serving in the sector, and the government gave its nod, according to sources.
Former northern command chief Lt Gen (retd) B S Jaswal, however, feels that environmental issues will be a matter of concern.
“Tourism and other activities will see a surge in waste dumping. This will hasten glacier retreat. Due to the presence of the Army, a lot of non-biodegradable waste is already present there and every day, about 1,000 kg is being added,” Lt Gen Jaswal said.
He said that while opportunities will open up the doors for revenue generation for locals as also the government, keeping the security in view, red lines will have to be drawn to restrict areas for visits.
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