300 Pakistani terrorists controlled a large area along Kashmir border for three years A group of more than 300 Pakistani terrorists took control of a chunk of Indian territory in Kashmir alongside the border with Pakistan over the past three years, according to a startling admission by the Indian army. For years, the army remained oblivious of this massive infiltration on the Line of Control that demarcates the two-thirds of Kashmir controlled by India and the one-third by Pakistan. The group occupied about 100 sq km of territory and effectively established a terrorist base 35km inside India. It was only a routine reconnaissance mission by an army helicopter in March in the remote area of dense forests, mountains and freezing cold that led to the base being detected. The crew was surprised to find footprints in the snow in Hill Kaka, an area where even Kashmir shepherds rarely go. Puzzled, they flew closer and took photographs. It was then that the army stumbled upon a bunker, fortified like a military garrison and generously stocked with arms - including rocket-propelled grenades, explosives and mortars - and satellite phones and 7,000kg of food. 'So much food means they had plans to live the entire winter there,' Major-General Hardev Liddar said. 'They also had surgical equipment, presumably because they didn't want to alert people in the surrounding areas by taking injured colleagues for treatment.' General Lidder said the incursion remained undetected for so long because the Line of Control was one of the most inhospitable areas in the world. For six months of the year, heavy snows make it uninhabitable. Since no development work such as road-building is going on, no one ventures there. The base apparently was being used by most of the well-known groups that want Kashmir to be separated from India - the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen and the Jaish-e-Mohammed. 'They were using the base for planning, co-ordination, transit and safe-keeping of arms,' General Liddar said. Last month, the Indian army launched a big operation to destroy the base and re-establish control. The snow and blizzards made the operation extremely difficult. The army had to build mule tracks and three helipads on ridges 3,000 metres high. The operation has only been partially successful. The army says about 65 militants have been killed and the others, while they have fled the base, are still in Kashmir. About 40 per cent of the area has been secured. It is the biggest incursion into Kashmir since Kargil in 1999, when India had to wage a war to expel Pakistani-backed infiltrators holding a 10km stretch of land about 6km high up in the mountains within the Indian side of the Line of Control. India suffered heavy losses as it pushed the infiltrators back into Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. 'These sorts of incursions will keep happening periodically,' said Brahma Chellaney, professor of Strategic Studies at the Centre for Policy and Research in New Delhi. 'One reason is because the terrain is impossible to monitor fully and two, because the Indian government just keeps up a purely defensive attitude.'