News

DATE=6/30/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-251258 TITLE=INDIA / MOUNTAIN FIGHTING (L-ONLY) BYLINE=ANJANA PASRICHA DATELINE=NEW DELHI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: INDIA'S MILITARY OFFENSIVE TO EVICT ARMED INTRUDERS IS TAKING PLACE ON SOME OF THE WORLD'S TALLEST MOUNTAINS. THE GUERRILLAS ARE ENTRENCHED IN STONE BUNKERS ON UNINHABITED, SNOWBOUND PEAKS -- AND FROM THESE COMMANDING POSITIONS THEY DOMINATE THE LOWER MOUNTAINS, FROM WHERE INDIAN SOLDIERS CLIMB SLOWLY UP TO DISLODGE THE FIGHTERS. THE MISSION IS DANGEROUS, AND THE TOLL IN THE MONTH-LONG OFFENSIVE IS HIGH. THE INDIAN ARMY SAYS 180 SOLDIERS HAVE BEEN KILLED, AND NEARLY 350 ARE WOUNDED IN THE FIVE-WEEK LONG MILITARY OPERATION. ANJANA PASRICHA REPORTS ON HOW DEFENSE OFFICIALS IN INDIA ARE EXPLAINING THE HAZARDS OF FIGHTING IN THE HIMALAYAN MOUNTAINS. TEXT: ON WEDNESDAY, THE INDIAN ARMY COUNTED ITS DEAD DURING A FIERCE BATTLE A DAY EARLIER TO RECAPTURE TWO STRATEGIC PEAKS. AT LEAST 25 SOLDIERS HAD DIED, MORE THAN 40 WERE WOUNDED -- THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF CASUALTIES IN A SINGLE DAY. DESPITE INTENSE ARTILLERY SHELLING AND ROUND-THE-CLOCK AIR STRIKES POUNDING POSITIONS OF AN ESTIMATED 1000 GUERRILLAS, THE OPERATION TO RECAPTURE THE MOUNTAINS IS SLOW, AND IS CLAIMING THE LIVES OF SCORES OF INDIAN TROOPS. COLONEL BIKRAM SINGH SAYS IT IS DIFFICULT TO IDENTIFY AND ACCURATELY HIT TARGETS HIDDEN IN STEEP FOLDS OF MOUNTAIN RIDGES. AS A RESULT, AIR STRIKES AND ARTILLERY FIRING ARE NOT AS EFFECTIVE AS THEY CAN BE IN THE PLAINS. ///INSERT SINGH ACT/// NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, A TOTAL NEUTRALIZATION (DESTRUCTION) OF THE OBJECTIVE IS WELL NIGH IMPOSSIBLE. IT'S VERY DIFFICULT IN SUCH TERRAIN. IT MAY BE POSSIBLE ON PLAINS. BUT IN THE MOUNTAINS IT IS VERY DIFFICULT. COUPLED WITH THIS IS THE PROBLEM OF THE ACCURACY OF THE PROJECTILES THAT ARE BEING FIRED. THE ONES FIRED BY THE ARTILLERY, BY THE MORTARS, BY THE AIRCRAFT THEY DO NOT LAND ONTO THE OBJECTIVE, THEREFORE YOU CANNOT KILL EVERY SOLDIER OF THE ENEMY WHO'S IN THE POSITIONS OVER THERE. ///END SINGH ACT/// THE LONG AND ARDUOUS CLIMB BY FOOT SOLDIERS TOWARD A PEAK CAN ONLY BEGIN ONCE THE AIR STRIKES ARE OVER. OTHERWISE THE CLIMBING SOLDIERS MAY BE HIT BY BOMBS ON THE VIRTUALLY VERTICAL TERRAIN. IN THE MOUNTAINS WHERE THE AIR IS THIN, SOLDIERS TAKE MANY HOURS TO COVER A SHORT DISTANCE. THIS ROBS THEM OF THE ADVANTAGE THEY WOULD HAVE HAD ON MORE FLAT TERRAIN. ///INSERT SINGH ACT/// THE EFFECT ON THE MORALE OF THE ENEMY IS TEMPORARY. WHEN THE AIR STRIKE GOES IN, WHEN THE ARTILLERY GOES IN, THE ENEMY IS STUNNED, THE ENEMY IS DEMORALIZED, BUT TEMPORARILY FOR A COUPLE OF HOURS. WHILE IN PLAINS, YOU CAN EXPLOIT THIS KIND OF SITUATION, YOU CANNOT EXPLOIT THIS IN MOUNTAINS. BECAUSE YOU'VE GOT TO FINISH OFF WITH YOUR AIR STRIKES, AND THEN START MOVING THESE PEOPLE FORWARD. SO WHAT HAPPENS, BY THE TIME THE INFANTRY REACHES THE OBJECTIVE, HE'S (ENEMY) ONCE AGAIN BEEN ABLE TO MUSTER UP HIS WITS AND HE'S BACK AT HIS POSITION TO FIRE AT YOU. ///END SINGH ACT/// FOOT SOLDIERS CLAMBERING UP ICY PEAKS AND SHEER ROCKS ARE EASY TARGETS FOR SNIPING GUERRILLAS PERCHED ON HIGHER GROUND. THERE IS NO VEGETATION ON THE BARREN PEAKS TO PROVIDE COVER. COLONEL SINGH SAYS, TECHNOLOGY AND SOPHISTICATED WEAPONS OF MODERN WARFARE ARE OF LIMITED HELP TO INFANTRY SOLDIERS WHO MUST FINALLY GRAPPLE WITH THE GUERRILLAS ALONE. ///INSERT SINGH ACT/// IT IS THE INFANTRY WHICH FINALLY CAPTURES THE OBJECTIVE. NO AMOUNT OF AIR STRIKES, ARTILLERY, MORTAR FIRE CAN CAPTURE AN OBJECTIVE. THAT INFANTRYMAN WHEN HE IS FINALLY AT THE OBJECTIVE, HE HAS TO VIRTUALLY GET INTO A HAND-TO-HAND COMBAT. HE'S IN ONES OR TWOS WHEN HE REACHES ON THE TOP AND HE FINDS THE ENEMY IS JUST FIVE METERS AWAY, HE HAS TO GRAPPLE WITH HIM, HE HAS TO FIGHT WITH HIM. ///END SINGH ACT/// TIRED FROM THE FIGHTING, THE SOLDIERS CARRY THE BODIES OF THEIR FALLEN COMRADES TO THE BASE CAMP. IT TAKES SEVEN MEN AS MANY HOURS TO BRING DOWN ONE DEAD SOLDIER. INDIAN SOLDIERS RETURNING FROM THE MOUNTAINS HAVE DESCRIBED THE GUERRILLAS AS TOUGH, BRAVE AND MOTIVATED FIGHTERS. (SIGNED) NEB/AP/PLM 30-Jun-99 8:01 AM EDT (1201 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .