Army to step-up anti-militancy operations, de-radicalize youth

LoC skirmishes, steps to counter intrusions reviewed
Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Apr 20: Top Army Commanders, who have been deliberating situation on the frontiers with Pakistan and China and anti-militancy operations in the Kashmir valley among other issues during last five days in the biannual conference at the Union capital, have reportedly decided to intensify operations against the militants but, at the same time, ensure that collateral damage and loss of civilian lives are avoided at any cost.
The conference, which has so far been attended by Minister of State for Defence Dr Subhash Bhamre and Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat, will conclude tomorrow.
Sources said the Army Commanders, who were debating all issues confronting the troops at the six-day conclave, were of the view that operations against the militants in the Kashmir Valley would go on, or, rather stepped up, which was necessary to carry forward the gains achieved last year with the killing of 200 plus militants but, at the same time, called for more strict surveillance along the Line of Control (LoC) to thwart infiltration attempts by the militants.
“The Commanders reportedly voiced concern over reports that number of the militants was swelling at launch pads on Pakistan side of the LoC opposite Jammu and Kashmir, with onset of summer and decided to put in place all measures to ensure zero infiltration,” sources said.
The Commanders, according to sources, dwelt in detail on the infiltration attempts this summer on the LoC amidst reports that Pakistan army and militant commanders would make all out attempts to push as many militants as possible into Jammu and Kashmir and a strategy was devised to thwart the intrusions at the LoC itself so that number of militants in the hinterland didn’t go up.
According top priority to restoration of peace in Kashmir, the Army Commanders reportedly stressed upon stepping-up anti-militancy operations in the Valley but by ensuring that there is minimum collateral damage and civilian killings are avoided. They dwelt in detail the new trend in which civilians have been storming the sites of encounters and fighting pitched battles with para-military and police personnel by subjecting them to stone pelting, leading to escape of some of the militants and killing of civilians.
Eight civilians had lost their lives in two encounters in South Kashmir this week while three Army soldiers were martyred. Thirteen militants were eliminated in two operations in South Kashmir on April 1.
The Army Commanders reportedly stressed the need to de-radicalize the youth and brought back to the mainstream. They focused on convincing the youth to shun violence and gun culture and return to the national mainstream otherwise the security personnel would be left with no option but to eliminate them.
Sources said the situation along frontiers with Pakistan especially the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir was reviewed in details. Indo-Pak troops have been engaged in mortar shelling and firing almost at regular intervals for the past about one year in the twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch, leading to number of casualties of Army and civilians. In retaliation, Pakistan has suffered more than double the Indian casualties besides heavy infrastructural damages.
PTI adds from New Delhi:
The Army Commanders also delved into a host of key issues including the situation along the borders with China and modernization of the force with limited budgetary allocation, a senior Army official said.
Director General Staff Duties Lt General A K Sharma said the commanders confabulated on the prevalent situation in the Kashmir valley and reviewed recent developments affecting the modus operandi of the operations of the armed forces deployed there.
“It was felt that priority must be accorded towards ushering in peace by conducting counter terrorist operations that minimize collateral damage,” he said.
Security forces have been facing stiff opposition from Valley residents some of whom had resorted to stone pelting at the security forces in certain areas.
He said the commanders also reviewed the situation along the Line of Control and the increase in ceasefire violations there. They also talked about “adequacy of the response mechanisms” to ceasefire violations by Pakistan.
In his opening remarks on April 16, Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat had impressed upon the need to work in a collaborative manner for retaining and enhancing the current levels of combat effectiveness, Sharma said.
He said the Army chief expressed satisfaction at the way the Army was adapting to dynamic security challenges and stressed the need to lay down judicious priorities to ensure that the allocated resources are utilized optimally.
Last month, the Army told a Parliamentary Panel it was reeling under severe fund crunch and struggling to even make emergency procurement when there was a real possibility of a two-front war and both China as well as Pakistan were carrying out modernization of their defence forces in “full swing”.
The official said “considerable” time was devoted to “re-prioritizing” existing requirements to ensure that resources allocated for force modernization and capacity building were optimally utilized within the budgetary allocation.
The Army Commanders will tomorrow discuss matters related exclusively to military operations.
A major focus of the conference was on bolstering the Army’s overall operational preparedness along the nearly 4,000 km-long borders with China.
Indian and Chinese troops were locked in a 73-day standoff in Doklam in the Sikkim sector last year after the Indian side stopped the construction of a road in the disputed area by the Chinese army. The face-off ended on August 28.
The other aspect which was given prominence during the conference was the recommendations of the Committee of Experts (the Shekatkar Committee report under the chairmanship of Lt Gen (Retd) D B Shekatkar).
The committee was formed to recommend measures to enhance combat capability and re-balance defence expenditure of the armed forces. The committee submitted its report in December 2016.
In August last year, the then Defence Minister Arun Jaitley had said the panel had suggested 99 recommendations for structural changes in the Army and out of which the Defence Ministry has accepted 65 after consultations with all the stakeholders.
Sharma said the Army commanders also deliberated issues related to cyber security and security of military establishments.
Lt General Sharma said issues related to cadre management, assured career progression and measures to meet the genuine aspirations of the entire rank and file of the Indian Army were deliberated upon in great detail.
“The key issues covered during this session were financial management, equipment optimization, management of communication and data security and streamlining of existing procedures pertaining to administration,” he said.