Shun gun, stop taking support from Pak for talks: Rawat to separatists

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Jan 10: Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat said today that talks with the separatists were possible only if they shun the gun and stop taking support from the western neighbour (Pakistan) and asserted that situation in Jammu and Kashmir needs to be brought under better control for which the Army was adopting hard power and soft power approach.
“Our position is very clear that shun the gun and stop taking support from the western neighbour. Talks can happen only if then shun the violence. Talks can happen only if they lay down weapons. During Ramzan, we had given opportunity to the separatists to lay down arms. But if someone picks up the gun, we will take action,’’ Gen Rawat said referring to a question on talks with separatist Hurriyat Conference in Kashmir on the analogy of Taliban during his annual press briefing in the Union capital.
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He said that while the security forces favoured peaceful dialogue among stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir, there will be zero tolerance on violence even as he maintained that there were around 300 terrorists across the LoC waiting to infiltrate into India but declared that the Army was determined to foil all infiltration attempts (by the militants).
He said that the security forces are using various strategies to bring situation in Jammu and Kashmir under control and there is standing offer for the terrorists.
“We’re adopting both hard and soft approaches. The offer to terrorists to join the mainstream stays. If that happens, people of Jammu and Kashmir will benefit the most. We also offered to terrorists to come over ground. Ultimately who is getting affected by violence? The people of Kashmir themselves by the violence perpetrated by their own people,’’ he added.
Maintaining that the Indian Army was a professional force and never targeted civilians, the Army chief said: “However, when terrorists operating from the western border (Pakistan) try to cross the border, it becomes difficult to differentiate between a civilian and a terrorist.”
Gen Rawat said Jammu and Kashmir is a bilateral issue between the two nations and there is no place for third party interventions.
“We have to talk on our terms and conditions. Our terms and conditions are very clear. Come to negotiation table and let’s start talking, but shun the gun, give up violence,” he added.
On current situation in the valley, the Army chief said: “We are only facilitators of peace. We are there to ensure that peace returns to the Valley. With that narrative we have succeeded to a large extent in North East. A large number of groups have decided to negotiate on our terms. And we are moving forward in ensuring better peace in the State,’’ said Gen Rawat.
The Army chief also said that Pakistan’s hostilities towards India along the border in J&K have not come down after Imran Khan came to power, adding the Pakistani leader was only talking about peace and not doing anything to improve the situation on the ground.
“We are saying talks and terror cannot happen together. It is not only just applicable to our western neighbour, it is applicable to Jammu and Kashmir also. You cannot keep killing security personnel and say we are ready for talks,” said the Army chief.
“Talks can only happen if you give up violence,” he added.
Gen Rawat said success in Jammu and Kashmir should not be measured by number of terrorists being killed and that people of the State were beginning to understand that violence was not the way forward.
He said local youths joining terrorism in Kashmir was linked to intensity of propaganda and was not related to killing of terrorists by security forces.
He said funeral processions of terrorists and conferring martyr status to them by Tanzeems had encouraged youths to join the groups, adding the Army has limited the processions, which has shown positive results.
“We have now started curtailing these (funeral processions). The number of people allowed to join the funeral processions have started gradually coming down. We are trying to control the crowd,” he said.
The Army chief said people of Jammu and Kashmir were beginning to realize the futility of violence.
“Youths in Kashmir are immensely terrorized by terror groups and Tanzeems,” he said.
He said the Army’s Northern Command, headquartered at Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir, would get new sniper rifles by January 20 and added that the force was using quadcopters for surveillance in border areas.
“These high-end gadgets help in detecting explosives. Quadcopters are being used by the Army for surveillance of areas for information if somebody is lying there or you can see some warlike material in an area. Then we try and cautiously approach that area where either there’s poor visibility or while taking difficult area,’’ he added.
Gen Rawat said Indian army is prepared for all tasks and have managed situations on all fronts very well.
Gen Rawat said the Army has managed the situation well along the northern and western borders and there should be no cause for concern.
“We have managed the situation well along the northern (China) and western (Pakistan) borders. There should be no cause of concern,’’ he maintained.
He said the armed forces have been working by the mandate that they have been given.
A day after supporting talks with Taliban, Gen Rawat said the same approach cannot be applied to Jammu and Kashmir, asserting that talks and terror cannot go together and that any engagement with militant groups in the state will be strictly on the basis of conditions set by the government.
“If a number of countries are talking to the Taliban, India cannot be out of the bandwagon as it has interests in Afghanistan.
With the United States and Russia reaching out to the Taliban in Afghanistan, Gen Rawat said: “We have interests in Afghanistan. We can’t be out of bandwagon’’.
However, he said, the same analogy can’t apply to Jammu and Kashmir as talks in the State have to be on our terms.
“It is not one size fix all. You have to see your national interests, where you have different national interests, you take a different line,” he added.
The Army chief was asked about his comments on Wednesday backing talks with Taliban and whether he would support engaging Hurriyat Conference and other separatist groups in Kashmir.
He declared that talks and terror can’t go together and it applies to Jammu and Kashmir too.
To a query if the terrorists could infiltrate into the country from the Punjab border, Gen Rawat said: “We have state-of-the-art technologies to prevent such activities.”
Gen Rawat said gay sex and adultery will not be allowed in the Indian Army, months after the Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality and struck down a colonial-era adultery law.
“In the Army, it is not acceptable,” he said.
The Army Chief said though his force is not above the law, it will not be possible to allow gay sex and adultery in the Army.
“The Army is conservative. The Army is a family. We cannot allow this to perpetrate into the Army,” he said on adultery, adding soldiers and officers deployed along the borders cannot be allowed to be worried about their family.
The conduct of the Army personnel is governed by the Army Act.
At the same time Gen. Rawat said the Army is not above the law and that the Supreme Court is the highest judicial body of the country.


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