Army’s strong message to Pak: more surgical strikes not ruled out

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Sept 7: Army today sent out a very strong message to Pakistan that Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan is not a line that can’t be breached and that troops can go across whenever required (to counter the terrorists) just like last September’s surgical strikes at four places in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The stern message to Pakistan was given by Northern Command chief Lt Gen Devraj Anbu while speaking to media persons at Command Headquarters at Udhampur on the sidelines of investiture ceremony. Significantly, Nirmala Sitharaman, first full-time woman Defence Minister of the country also took charge today from Arun Jaitley.
“Surgical strike was a point we wanted to drive home across that LoC is not a line that cannot be breached. When we want we will be able to breach, go across and strike them whenever required. That was a subtle message we wanted to convey and we did it successfully,” the Northern Command chief, whose troops have been guarding the LoC in Poonch and Rajouri districts in Jammu region and North and South Kashmir in the Valley, said.
Last September, Army had carried out surgical strikes at four places in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and eliminated around 50 militants besides destroying terror infrastructure. Sources said the top Army Commander’s statement was a clear indication that the troops can carry out more surgical strikes in PoK, if required, to neutralize the militants and destroy the terror infrastructure.
Lt Gen Anbu said the raids conducted by National Investigating Agency (NIA) have succeeded in choking the funding of terrorists, which has resulted into decline in the street protests and terrorism.
“The situation that was in November-December last year is not today. Very few, or just token, protests are taking place now. The youth have realized futility of terrorism. Only few people are into it now,” he said.

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“The NIA raids, aimed at choking funding to separatists, “which has got direct link to terrorism in Kashmir, compliments the security operations” of forces. Administration (in J&K) is good. We have been able to eliminate terrorist leaders and it is complimented by the choking of funds by NIA raids. All this will have a deterring effect on the youth who are likely to become part of agitation dynamics. It has come down drastically,” he added.
On protests, the Northern Command chief said: agitational dynamics does not mean that each and every person comes to streets and their heart and soul is into it. There is an upward curve. The Government in power and security forces get to top of it.”
At the same time, he said, there is a need to engage the youth in Kashmir and provide them employment.
Regarding recent incidents of `Kashmiriyat and Insaniyat’ visible on streets of the Valley, Lt Gen Anbu said people in Kashmir in large are for security forces. The reasons being that Army was not only involved in kinetic operations but was also carrying out various people welfare measures like `Operation Sadhbhavna, providing coaching to youngsters in different fields etc.
Asked whether Pohroo and Qazigund incidents, where local people came to rescue of troops in distress was a slap on face of separatists, he said: ”recently when separatists were arrested by NIA, there were no protests on the streets of Kashmir. Nobody came out on the roads. That speaks for itself”.
Asserting that elimination of the leadership of terrorists has brought down incidents and recruitment of the local terrorists, Lt Gen Anbu said: “the local recruitment happens when the terrorists have an upper hand. The youngsters in the age group of 16 to 18 get moulded by the terrorists and separatists to join the ranks. This is what we need to look at. The number of the locals militants joining ranks have been constant in last year years including this year”.
“The number of terror camps and launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan- occupied Kashmir have gone up and around 475 militants are waiting to sneak into the Indian side,” he disclosed but said the troops were maintaining very high alert all along the LoC to ensure that the militants didn’t succeed in their plot.
Internally, he said the NIA raids on separatists and the killing of top militant leaders by security forces have helped in improving security situation in Kashmir. He disclosed that 144 militants have been killed in the State so far this year and the situation is “well under control”.
The General said there have been a large number of infiltration attempts along the LoC in J&K this year but “very less” have been successful.
“We cannot tell you the exact number of the militants. But the militants, who are waiting to cross over to this side (via the LoC from PoK) are nearly 250 in north Kashmir and around 225 in south of Pir Panjal (Jammu region),” he added.
He said the security situation along the LoC and in the hinterland in well under control.
“We are firmly in control of the situation along the LoC… (the number of) launching pads and terrorist camps along LoC has increased as compared to the previous years,” he said.
“While infiltration attempts have increased, the success to infiltrate has been much less than previous years despite large number of infiltration attempts. That is because of our robust counter-infiltration grid that we have on LoC,” he said.
“The (number of) militants coming to this side have decreased to a large extent this year,” Lt Gen Anbu said.
According to Multi Agency Centre (MAC) of intelligence gathering, the number of militants who have managed to infiltrate is 75 during the last eight months, he said, adding, “But according to our assessment, it is 45 to 50.”
He said the Army has created a “strong deterrence” at the LoC so that militants do not enter the Indian side.
“While attempts are more, we are preventing them from entering this side, whether in Kashmir valley or Jammu region,” the Army Commander said.
About the input of a group of militants having sneaked in via Samba, he said all agencies are closely watching that. “If it manifests somewhere, we will get to know,” he added.
About the militancy situation in the hinterland, Lt Gen Anbu said, “It is improving. Those (militants) who are operating in the hinterland are foreign terrorists in North Kashmir and South Kashmir has presence of local terrorists more and foreign terrorists are lesser.”
He said the security forces are trying to dominate the South Kashmir region.
“We conduct searches keeping in mind that we do not cause any inconvenience to local people. That is where we get information from and warn them in advance. We conduct operations and they (operations) are clean. After the operation, we keep interacting with people so that they are on our side. This has had very good effect in South Kashmir,” Lt Gen Anbu said.
“We have killed 100 militants in the past four months. A total of 144 militants have been killed so far (in Kashmir this year),” he said.
“The effect of what is happening now will manifest in a couple of months from now. But there is decrease in local youth getting recruited,” he added.
The Army Commander strongly batted for reaching out to the youth of Kashmir.
“The issue that needs attention is that you need to engage the youth and the State Government and everybody has to play a part in ensuring employment generation and positive security environment is created by the security forces and it will get controlled,” the General said.
The Army Commander said no footprint of militants has been seen in the Jammu region.
“There is no militant presence in Jammu region. May be there will one odd such report and that too due to any infiltration. But there is no resident terrorist or presence of foreign terrorist in Jammu region,” he said in reply to a question with regard to presence of the militants in the region.
Replying to a volley of questions about the possibility of Dokalam-type stand-off between the armies of India and China in Ladakh, Lt Gen Anbu said: “I don’t expect Dokalam-like situation to take place. It is not working here.”
He said both countries have their own perception about the LAC and “therefore, we try to dominate these areas by patrolling. In the process, (if) you have certain face-offs and any issues arising out of this due to difference of perception, we have mechanism which is in place.”
In Dokalam area in the Sikkim sector, the armies of India and China were in a faceoff situation for over 70 days before the two sides agreed last week to “disengage”.
The Army Commander said the mechanism is “well-placed”, from the lowest level to highest level and “whatever issues are raised, we deal with them on daily basis. Meetings take place and hotline communication is available to resolve whatever the differences are.”
To a question about China building huge infrastructure near ‘finger 4’ point along the LAC in Ladakh, he said, “They (China) are on the banks of Pangoso (Lake). There are ‘finger’ 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. Finger 8 is the farthest one which PLA controls and finger 4 is in our control.”
He added, “sometimes, face-offs and some incidents do happen but they are resolved as we have good relations there.”
As far infrastructure on the Indian side is concerned, he said, “we have progressed a lot in last 10 years in eastern Ladakh.”
Replying to a question about construction of a bridge by PLA on a stream after entering Indian territory in Dhamchok area of Ladakh, he said, “the bridge, you are mentioning, is not a bridge but a small log. It’s the line of Actual Control where the perception defers. They have a different perception (of LAC) and we have also a different perception at that particular place where the contention is.
“Therefore, the issue has been raised and we are dealing it with in a manner available to us to take it up with the PLA and resolve the issue,” he added.
The Army Commander said, “We are totally in control of the area concerned but the issue related to Dhamchok is basically about taking cattle for grazing on both the sides – on our side as well as the PLA side”.
He said it is around that area that these log bridges have come up to facilitate grazing.
“We exactly know where our claimed lines lie and what we need to do to be able to effectively deal with the PLA on the matter. We are in full control,” he added.
Lt Gen Ambu said he problems of Kashmir cannot be resolved only by the Army,  underlining the importance of political and administrative measures for betterment of the situation.
“Apart from the Army, the State Government will have to do its work and it will be easy to wipe out terrorism sooner,” said Lt Gen Anbu.
Asked whether the Army needs political encouragement and empowerment for undertaking operations in Kashmir, he said, “certainly, it is there. Anything the military does, it has got half the political will and direction. Military does not do anything its own.
“To that extent, whatever the political steps the Government in power takes, reflects on the operations of the armed forces. And yes, there have been positive steps on all the fronts as far as operations are concerned and it does really benefit.”
He said militants seek to raise the pitch of violence whenever pressure of the security forces goes up.
“We keep on looking at how things are developing and formulate our own strategy so that it does not happen. When we control the situation, they come and again try to vitiate the atmosphere and increase the strength of terrorists. But it is our own strategy to ensure that it does not happen,” Gen Anbu said.


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