Pak radicalizing youth, 40 join militancy: Army Comdr

‘Won’t allow terror to take roots in Jammu’

No record of surgical strike before Sept 2016

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, May 20: Northern Command chief Lt Gen Ranbir Singh said today that Pakistan was trying to keep the pot of militancy boiling by radicalizing Kashmiri youth through social media to pick up guns saying 40 youngsters have joined militancy in the Valley this year so far though the number has declined over the previous years due to outreach programme of the Army with teachers and families of the youth. At the same time, he said, 86 militants have been neutralized this year while 20 others have been apprehended in the Valley till date.
Describing situation in Jammu and Kashmir as “under control”, the Army Commander, who has regularly been taking visits to forward areas on the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K as well as hinterland, said Pakistan continued to indulge in anti-India activities by trying to infiltrate militants and promote drug trafficking. However, he declared that Army will not allow terror to take roots in Jammu region.
Speaking to selected group of media persons with number of them not getting any invite from the Northern Command Headquarters, at Udhampur, Lt Gen Singh said Pakistan army has failed in infiltrating militants and, therefore, was trying to radicalize local youth through social media to pick up guns in the Valley.
“About 40 youngsters have joined militancy in Kashmir this year,” he added.
Still, the General said, there is decrease in the youth joining militancy this year as compared to last year due to outreach programme of the Indian Army to their families and teachers, which resulted in return of large number of misguided youth back to mainstream.
“Pakistan has been continuing with its efforts to show this (terrorism) as indigenous movement. Today, they feel absolutely starved because of the very effective counter infiltration grid of the Indian Army. Successful infiltration from the Line of Control is virtually becoming very difficult”, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh said.
However, he asserted, the local recruitment of militants remains a matter of concern for all of us. “Last year, 217 local youth had picked up guns. This year number has significantly reduced. As on date, there are only 40 youth, who have picked up arms”.
The Army Commander spelled out that one of the key reasons for local recruitment is the “radicalization and exploitation of social media by Pakistani agencies.”
However, he said, realization is now coming among the youth and people of Kashmir that they don’t want to become fodder by the Pakistani agencies and various inimical elements, who were trying to promote terrorism and violence in the State. “I am sure with the help of all the stakeholders we will be able to arrest this trend in the times to come as we are doing now”.
Lt Gen Singh said the Army was able to prevail upon the youth through their social outreach programmes with the help of family members, teachers and other stakeholders and brought number of youth back from clutches of the militancy, to national mainstream.
Asserting that the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir is “under control”, the Army General said Pakistan is continuing with its anti-India activities along the Line of Control (LoC) by trying to infiltrate militants into the Valley and promoting drug trade.
The Northern Army Commander said during this year, 86 militants have been neutralized and 20 others arrested and declared that operations against the militants will continue.
He said the Army has been able to check and arrest terror activities in south of Pir Panjal in the Jammu region. At present, there are no confirmed reports about the presence of terrorists in the region, Lt Gen Singh said, adding: “Our resolve and commitment to operations (against militants) continues to be same in South of Pir Panjal. We will not allow the areas of Jammu region to slip into terrorism,” he added.
As far as security situation in Jammu and Kashmir is concerned, he described it as “well under control”.
However, he added, the terror infrastructure across the border was intact and Pakistan is continuing with its “anti-Indian activities”.
He said Pakistan has been continuing with its activities which are mainly anti-India, whether it is violating ceasefire, promoting cross-border infiltration, drug trafficking, narcotics and circulation of fake Indian currency etc.
He added that the neighbouring country wants to continue with its proxy war against India.
“But I must assure you that our efforts to thwart each of these actions is in place and Pakistan will not able to succeed in its designs,” Lt Gen Singh said.
Referring to the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China as peaceful, the Northern Army Commander said: “We have been able to ensure peace and tranquility with China”.
Lt Gen Singh said the established mechanisms for confidence building have ensured that there are no “fraction points” between the two sides.
“If at all there are any kind of transgressions and incursions, which do take place, the established mechanisms take care of that,” he added.
Lt Gen Singh said the security forces helped the administration in Jammu and Kashmir to conduct the Lok Sabha polls in a peaceful manner.
“We recently finished with the elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The credit is due to the security forces and the administration,” he added.
Lt Gen Singh termed the IAF’s Balakote airstrike on a terrorist camp in Pakistan as a “major achievement”.
He also confirmed that the first surgical strike was carried out by India in September 2016 while quoting an RTI reply by Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) and the Indian Army.
Asked if India conducted any surgical strike before September 2016, Lt Gen Singh replied in the negative.
Citing an RTI reply given by the DGMO and Indian Army, Lt Gen Singh said, “A few days ago DGMO said in a reply to an RTI that the first surgical strike happened in Sept 2016, I don’t want to go into what political parties say as they’ll be given an answer by Government. What I told you is a statement of fact.”
During Lok Sabha elections, Congress leader and former Prime Minister-Dr Manmohan Singh had stated that India had conducted six surgical strikes during UPA tenure but they weren’t publicized. Other Congress leaders had also joined the chorus and claimed that number of surgical strikes had been conducted during the UPA regime.
“The action by the Indian Air Force on the February 26 for carrying out airstrikes on Balakote terrorist infrastructure was indeed laudable,” he said.
“It was a major achievement wherein our aircrafts went deep into enemy territory and struck terror launch pads and camps,” he added.
Lt Gen Singh said Pakistanis carried out their air operations very close to the Line of Control the following day but were given a “befitting reply”.
“I want to assure you, the Indian Armed Forces have the capability, the resolve and operational plans absolutely geared up to take on any challenge from Pakistan whenever it arises,” he added.
Lt Gen Singh declared that Indian Army remains committed to take on any challenge of external threat as well as internal disturbances whenever called for. Indian Army, he said, is a very potent, responsible and accountable instrument of national power.
Lt Gen Singh batted strongly for “energizing” Village Defence Committees (VDCs) calling them a “useful instrument” for the State.
“They (VDCs) are always to be energized and they shall be able to take on responsibility (of securing the villages in remote and hilly areas) tasked to them,” he added.
The Army Commander said that it must be ensured that the volunteers are provided weapons so that they can defend their villages and pass information to the security forces regarding movement and presence of terrorists.
“All have to play a role to ensure peace and normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
The GoC-in-C Northern Command further said that Pakistan was insincere in ensuring peace and tranquility along the Line of Control.
“Whenever ceasefire violations take place, it is initiated by Pakistan. It shows their insincerity towards ushering in peace and tranquility along the LoC,” he said.
He added that the ceasefire is violated so that they can provide cover to large number of infiltrators or terrorists who are waiting to enter into India and carry out large scale destruction and violence.
“We have strong multi-tier grid and don’t allow the Pakistan Army or any other agency to take advantage of that situation,” Lt Gen said.
As far as terrorist infrastructure is concerned, it remains intact in Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, he said.
If Pakistan wants peace, it must dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, militant camps and launch pads on its soil.
On modernization of weaponry and equipment, he said the Army has a very articulated military strategy.
“We have operational plans for the deployment and employment of all the resources at the disposal of the Army. So, Army air defence is one such resource. It is a part of the overall defensive and offensives measure of Indian Army,” he said.