ISIS creeping towards this side but troops ready to meet threat: Hooda

Sanjeev Pargal

Northern Command chief Lt Gen D S Hooda speaking to reporters at Drass on Sunday.
Northern Command chief Lt Gen D S Hooda speaking to reporters at Drass on Sunday.

JAMMU, July 26: Northern Army Command chief Lt Gen DS Hooda said today that notorious militant outfit Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was slowly “creeping towards this side” and added that Security Grid will be fully strengthened to stop the outfit from getting a foothold in the country including Jammu and Kashmir.
“There are no large footprints of ISIS in Jammu and Kashmir but it was trying to expand. We will strengthen the Security Grid and stop the organisation from gaining any hold in the State,” Lt Gen Hooda told reporters at Drass today, the final day of ‘Kargil Vijay Diwas’ celebrations.
It was on this day 16 years ago that the Indian Army with joint efforts of Indian Air Force (IAF) had pushed back all Pakistani jawans including some irregulars after two months long hard fought war and re-captured all heights of Kargil. Nearly 500 officers and jawans had attained martyrdom in the war with Pakistan. The Day is celebrated every year as ‘Kargil Vijay Diwas’ with celebrations lasting over a week.
Army chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag had visited Drass yesterday and paid tributes at War Memorial. He had declared that Army won’t allow another Kargil to happen and that it would equip the troops with latest weaponry and gadgetry.
Lt Gen Hooda said though there were incidents of flag waiving (of ISIS) in Jammu and Kashmir by some youth, there were no large footprints of the terror outfit in the State.
“Is it a matter of concern, yes it is. Because ISIS is such an organisation with such radical sort of ideology and views that we should make sure that it doesn’t even get a hold and it has no place in a democracy. Therefore, there is a reason for us to see how to fight this ideological battle and frankly that is the plan at which it will get fought. So for us who are concerned with security and those concerned with governance, everybody has to put his head together and make sure that this very terrible organisation, if I may call it, doesn’t get a foothold in India,” the GOC-in-C Northern Command said.
Asserting that the creeping of ISIS into the region is a matter of concern, Lt Gen Hooda observed: “we are seeing it (footprints of ISIS in the region) slowly. We have already seen it in Afghanistan. There have been numerous incidents of conflict between ISIS and the Afghan Taliban. The ISIS is trying to gain some influence in Afghanistan. We have also seen factions of TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan), which operates in Pakistan which has pledged their allegiance to ISIS.
“So there is a creeping towards this side and definitely it is a matter of concern that their coming into closer and closer into our region,” he asserted.
Voicing concern over local youth joining the militancy, Lt Gen Hooda said: “there are reports that last year, according to our intelligence figures, about 60 local recruits, mostly from south Kashmir, and this year about 30-35 youths have joined the militancy. The number is not that large that it will transform the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir.”
However, he admitted that it was a matter of concern when young people have now slowly again started picking up the gun because two-three years back, the numbers were single digit – five, six or seven – that was the kind of recruitment taking place.
He said the establishment has to look at the issues of alienation and employment to counter the trend.
“We have to look at this. The youth engagement is something that everyone talks about, like how to do, do they have enough employment opportunities, that there is a sense of alienation and how to tackle that. These are the issues that we have to look at,” he added.
The Northern Army Commander acknowledged that there was a shortage of ammunition, but said the Government was seized of the matter and attempts were being made to address the issue.
“It has been reported in Parliament, there is some shortages of ammunition that exists and let’s not really direct it at any one or specific to one border. The weaponry is common in the Indian Army but there are some shortages in ammunition and there are efforts to try and build up these stocks,” he said.
Only yesterday, Army chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag while addressing the Army jawans in Drass had assured that all requirements of the Army including the shortcomings like weaponry and gadgetry will be overcome.
Lt Gen Hooda said though the day-to-day operations of the Army would not be affected by the shortage, there needs to be a huge build up in a war-like situation.
“Frankly, it will not, sort of, effect the day to day operations. That level of stocks is available. But if you are looking at war time, then you need to build up huge amount of stocks. There are some shortages and the Government is seized of it. The Ministry of Defence is seized of it and there are attempts (to address that),” he said.
On the implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP), the Army Commander said the Government has accepted it and “I am hopeful that it will come”.
Lt Gen Hooda said the force understands the requirements of its soldiers and was extremely sensitive to their needs.
“Frankly, the military is such an organisation where the bonding is close. The kind of welfare that we look into, basic items are all there for the soldiers.
“Let me tell you that as far as the requirement of the soldiers is concerned, everyone is extremely sensitive to their needs and the one sole agenda of the senior officers is that the guy on the border has what he needs,” he said.
The Northern Command chief said the recent attacks on mobile communications services in Kashmir were a matter of concern and it had taken a lot of measures to improve the security situation.
He said the Army was looking into the incidents.
“It is a matter of concern because mobile communication affects every man. It’s not so much that a tower has been attacked and two people have been injured there, it is the impact that it will have on the population as a whole. Therefore, there was a lot of drive after that incident in Sopore. Lot of steps to provide security have been taken and you saw the situation improved. I am sure people are looking into it and we are looking into it,” he said.
Four persons were injured when militants exploded three grenades, targeting mobile communication facilities, at Karan Nagar and Shaheed Gunj localities of Srinagar on Friday.
Hooda said Army was making full efforts to reach out to the youth of the State.
“We are making full efforts in our youth outreach programme. We are reaching to those areas where we feel there is a lot of radicalization. Tral (in south Kashmir) is one area where we did an outreach programme. We have looked at Sopore (in North), Shopian (in South) and areas like that. From our side we are doing what we can,” he said.
He said capabilities of the Army have grown “exponentially” since the Kargil war and the force was confident of dealing with any kind of situation on the borders with Pakistan and China.
“We are fully confident on both the borders. There used to be only a brigade before the Kargil war. Now there is a full division.
“Readiness has improved many manifold and similarly, with the counter-terrorism grid, measures have been put in place and so along the LAC with China, the capabilities have grown exponentially,” the Northern Army Commander said.
“So, I just want to tell everyone, tell the nation, please be confident. We are there on the borders and our capability exists to do well,” he said.
The Army Commander said there was a difference in perception with regard to the border with China, but both the sides understand that the border needs to be kept calm and peaceful.
“There are some areas where there is a difference in perception of Line of Actual Control (LAC). It is not that there are differences all along the LAC, but there are few areas where there are problems.
He said both the sides undertake patrolling up to their perception of LAC. “So, just as we look at Chinese action as transgression, they look at our actions as transgression. But the overall sense is that there needs to be peace and calm on the border,” he said.
Lt Gen Hooda said there is regular engagement with the Chinese Army and the kind of tension that takes place on the LoC is not there at the LAC.
“Border meetings take place very regularly and therefore you will find that in this area, the kind of tensions that take place on LoC are not there. I mean we have had incidents that like in Dispang in 2013 and 2014 but there is an understanding on both sides that we need to keep the border calm. Both the sides understand that there are limits which they do not cross,” he said.
Lt Gen Hooda said the Army has taken action to counter infiltration and was considering replacing the existing fence with a hi-tech one.
“This year there have been seven to eight infiltration bids. Traditionally, when the snow starts melting, the infiltration starts. In the next three-four months, you will find an increase in infiltration attempts. We have taken actions. This year we have actually increased deployment along the borders. More troops have gone up. We are looking at a hi-tech fence to replace the existing fence, so more surveillance measures are being taken. I think we are confident about dealing with this,” he said.
The Army Commander said about 250-300 infiltrators were waiting across the LoC to sneak into the Valley and 150 across the Jammu region.
He said some events on the Pakistan border give rise to suspicion about that country’s intentions.
“It is difficult for us to get into anybody’s mind and read as to what the Pakistan army is thinking. What gives a rise to suspicion is that somehow events on the border seem to coincide with events that are happening at the political and diplomatic levels. That is all I can say on that, but there is some ground for suspicion frankly,” he said.
He said there has been no change in infiltration attempts from across the LoC even after the ice-breaking meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa, Russia on July 10.
“We did, initially, see an increase in ceasefire violations. Now of course things are fine. As far as infiltration is concerned, we are not seeing any change in that. It is not only about how many we are physically intercepting, the intelligence which comes from across that is coming on as regular basis as it was,” he said.
On a question about Pakistan claiming to have shot down an India drone, Lt Gen Hooda said “it was a very far stretch of the imagination. It is like a toy drone that has a very limited military application. It has a very basic camera and flight time of 15 minutes.”
The Lt Gen said the claim made by the Pakistani Army has been “rubbished by everyone including the Chinese themselves, who said that they had not sold the drone to India”.
The Pakistan army had earlier in the month claimed to have shot down an Indian “spy” drone which it alleged was being used for aerial photography near the Line of Control.
Meanwhile, the gallantry award winners of the Kargil conflict and the next of kin of martyrs, Veer Naris, senior Army officers and civil dignitaries paid tributes to the martyrs.
This was followed by a pledge taken by all present at the function to rededicate themselves to the cause of the nation.
Northern Army Commander Lt General D S Hooda interacted with the next of kin of the martyrs, Veer Naris and the gallantry award winners.
The mood at the ceremony brought home memories of the losses borne by the martyrs’ families in the summer of 1999.
The commemorative event is held every year to mark India’s victory and also gives many people the rare opportunity to meet the heroes of the conflict in person and interact with them.

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