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Pakistani Plans to Sabotage India’s Attempts to Impose Communication Blackout in J and K

NEW DELHI, Oct 19: The centre may soon have to re-orient its plans to block Pakistan’s attempt to sabotage India’s efforts to impose communication blackout in the Kashmir valley in times of disturbances.

The Pakistani government is learnt to be in the process of executing a plan to expand areas of its mobile coverage in Jammu and Kashmir designed not only to help Pakistan-trained terrorists infiltrating into the valley but also neutralise the impact of a future communication blockade imposed by the government.

New Delhi had last year pulled the plug on Jammu and Kashmir’s communication network before it went public with the decision to abrogate Article 370 to be able to ensure that trouble-makers do not spread rumours on and off social media. The restrictions have since been progressively been lifted in various sectors but local security officials still do routinely snap phone links for some time in localities to prevent “rumour mongering” for maintaining law and order in the trouble-torn valley. If Pakistan is able to see its plan through, this would provide Kashmiris with an alternative to Indian phone companies and give further boost to rumour-mongering and create more problems for the security agencies.

The Pakistani plan, according to some Indian security sources, was to further strengthen the existing telecom towers and build new ones. The work had been in progress for about a year. The plan was initially conceived to strengthen the existing phone network only to help terrorists who have infiltrated into Kashmir. But the Pakistani foreign ministry pushed hard to scale up the exercise to give it the ability to sabotage the communications blockade ordered in Kashmir after last year’s Aug 5 decision to end its special status. It wants Kashmiris to use Pakistani telecom services that cannot be blocked by Indian security forces, the sources said.

The sources said Pakistan’s Special Communications Organisation (SCO) – the state-run firm mandated to provide telecom services in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the Gilgit-Baltistan region – had analysed signals from 38 sites along the Line of Control and the International Border with India. It has told the army that Pakistan could get a spillover effect via 28 existing phone towers if antenna in 18 locations were re-oriented to achieve this objective though it would reduce the coverage on its side of the LoC.

The blueprint also includes setting up the new base transceiver station in Pak-occupied Kashmir as well as use of Wireless local loop phones in Indian territory. “This plan has been accepted and is being implemented,” security officials said.

Pakistan’s ISI is also pushing for increasing the signal strength of SCO mobile towers in PoK nearest to Indian sites such as in Cham opposite Baramulla, Leepa opposite Sopore, Upper Neelam Valley and Athmuqam opposite Kupwara and Hillan Meera opposite Srinagar to provide coverage across the LoC.

A parallel exercise by the SCO, which is maintained by the Pak army, is looking at increasing transmission power of TV towers located at Lawat near Muzaffarabad, Upper Neelam and at Khuiratta to provide extended TV coverage in J&K.

(Manas Dasgupta)