India digs bunkers as Kashmir tensions rise

Indian army soldiers patrol near the highly militarized Line of Control dividing Kashmir. Photo / AP
Indian army soldiers patrol near the highly militarized Line of Control dividing Kashmir. Photo / AP

India has started constructing underground bunkers along its frontier with Pakistan in Kashmir amid fears the nuclear-armed rivals are preparing for a major escalation in conflict.

The fortification work follows an attack on India's Uri army base on September 18, which killed 19 soldiers and provoked huge public anger in India.

New Delhi blamed the attack on Pakistan-backed militants and responded by launching "surgical strikes" across the border into the part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan last Thursday.

A visit by the Daily Telegraph to a military checkpoint near Uri in Indian-controlled Kashmir revealed the army has quietly but decisively bolstered its fortifications along the "Line of Control". Troops from the 116th Infantry Brigade said exchanges of fire at night have grown since the Uri attack.

"They shoot every time they see us," said the soldiers, who asked not to be named.

"They shoot on sight. If we see movement, we shoot."

Residents in a village near Uri, which lies outside India's border fence but remains on the Indian side of the Line of Control, said the road leading to their homes had only two or three bunkers before the Uri attack took place, but now has as many as 50, many of which extend underground.

The move comes amid increasingly war-like rhetoric between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

Last week, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Pakistan's Defence Minister, warned that its tactical nuclear weapons were "not just showpieces". "If our safety is threatened, we will annihilate them," he said of India.

Ram Madhav, a senior leader of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP party, said India would no longer take "a tooth for a tooth" to avenge Pakistani aggression. "For one tooth, the complete jaw. Days of so-called strategic restraint are over," he said.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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