Operations in Army are paramount, snow or no snow!

| Updated: Feb 12, 2017 17:53 IST

By Mayank Singh New Delhi (India), Feb. 12 (ANI): Snowfall has broken records held since decades. The Indian Army has suffered massive casualties due to the avalanches and landslides in Kashmir but veterans consider it an operational necessity to carry on even in the most precarious situations in order to defeat the enemy. Avalanches and landslides are common in Kashmir and have caused some of the heaviest casualties in recent times. Veteran soldier and legendary mountaineer Colonel N. Kumar considers it an operational necessity which everyone can avoid but not an army soldier. He told ANI, "Operational requirement is such that we have to do patrolling. If we don't patrol the area then Pakistan will come and sit inside the pickets as it did in Kargil. Now, once you are going for patrolling which is to be completed in 10 days. If it starts snowing and even if they sit even then avalanche gets triggered. This is the operational risk which we have to take." Talking about the risks during patrolling, Col. Kumar said, "There are many kinds of avalanche - fresh snow avalanche, ice avalanches. Avalanche is very dangerous for patrolling parties because in normal case you can wait for couple of hours, it is always said wait for 48 hours after snowfall. That is the minimum we do. It also depends on the side of the slope. I am afraid if patrolling party is going, they have to carry on once they are given a task and it is very dangerous for them." The high casualty count evoked questions about the predictions made by the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE), which had issued the "medium danger" warning. Ashwagosh Ganju, the director of SASE, had earlier said that information can be provided about the area forecast but added that predicting intensity is not possible. Stating that avalanche is a result of many factors, he added, "These avalanches were predicted in advance. It can't be said that they will occur at so and so time and in such an area but we have what is called an area forecast and we could tell them about the area concerned. This was passed on to the Army." Predictions or no predictions, there cannot be a slack in the operational engagements of the Army in Jammu and Kashmir even in the perilous conditions. The recent martyrdom of the soldiers, who were trapped under avalanches in different areas, is a very sad development but the Army cannot avoid the duties which have their implication on safety and security of the people in the region. With several spells of heavy snowfall, Kashmir Valley has received the thickest blanket of snow in 25 years. This also means that likelihood of avalanches and landslides is also high. Landslides and shooting stones at several places including Karol, Mehar, Seeri, Battery Chashma and Digdol have already been reported. The bad weather conditions also led to closedown of the 300 km Srinagar-Jammu highway for several days. Blizzards tragically also inflicted heavy casualty on the Army. As the snow broke the decade-old record this year, avalanches left 26 people including 20 soldiers' dead. While fourteen were killed in avalanches in the Gurez sector, five were killed while the snow track they were patrolling on caved in at Machhal sector. Another officer lost his life in an avalanche in Sonamarg. On February 5 again the medium danger warning was issued by SASE. The SASE advisory said a "medium danger" warning is in place for avalanche-prone slopes in Kupwara, Bandipora, Anantnag, Baramulla, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Budgam, Poonch, Doda, Kishtwar and Kargil districts of Jammu and Kashmir. In such warnings, the Army movement is permitted with precautions. A soldier deployed on ground told ANI on the condition of anonymity that reports and forecasts of SASE is of immense help but these warnings are generic. An official of SASE emphasized that there is a need to expand the establishment to cover the vast and difficult terrains of the region. He said, "We try to cover the areas and then accordingly send our reports and warnings but to cover the vast and difficult terrain more accurately we require more manpower and an expansion in the infrastructure." SASE is spread out in key areas with an aim to provide precise forecast. Major General D.K. Mehta(Retd.) acknowledges the perils associated with the duties of Army. He said, "The loss of lives is indeed sad. But let us accept that the Army is deployed in these rugged mountains along the borders for the nation's security. There are high risks associated with the duty as it necessitates deployments and movements even in heavy snowfall times." The Army follows Standard Operating Procedure and takes precautions but when it comes to ground requirements then national security is paramount to any lurking danger. General Mehta (Retd.) says, "Operations in Army are considered paramount as it is a matter of national security and these will go on... We must be ready to support our soldiers as Mother Nature at times gets better of them." (ANI)