The Pakistan government plans to extend its mobile coverage in Jammu and Kashmir to help terrorists infiltrate into the valley and nullify the impact of Government of India’s future attempts to block communication lines.
Intelligence officials in New Delhi claim the Pakistani establishment under Prime Minister Imran Khan always had plans to replace existing telecom towers with new ones to strengthen the network and help terrorists infiltrate into Kashmir. In addition, the Pakistani foreign ministry pushed hard to give the system the ability to sabotage the communications blockade ordered in Kashmir after last year’s August 5 decision to end its special status. It wants Kashmiris to use Pakistani telecom services that cannot be blocked by Indian security forces.
The government of India last year blocked Jammu and Kashmir’s communication network before it went public with the decision to abrogate Article 370. This helped New Delhi ensure that trouble-makers do not spread rumours on and off social media. The restrictions have since then been lifted but security officials do routinely snap phone links for some time in localities to prevent rumour-mongering.
If Pakistan’s plan succeeds, Kashmiris will have an alternative to Indian telephony.
A top national security planner told Hindustan Times that 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. According to its analysis, the GSM antenna would need to be reoriented in 18 locations to achieve this objective though it would reduce the coverage on its side of the LoC.
On its part, the ISI is trying to increase the signal strength of Pakistan’s mobile towers in PoK, particularly in locations around Cham, opposite Baramulla, Leepa opposite Sopore, Upper Neelam Valley and Athmuqam opposite Kupwara and Hillan Meera opposite Srinagar to provide coverage across the LoC.