‘Troops’ morale not affected by statements’

JAMMU: Northern Command chief Lt Gen Ranbir Singh said today that Army was fully prepared to meet with any contingency if militants tried to infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir following troop pullout from Afghanistan and declared that the Indian Army is totally apolitical and was conducting counter-insurgency operations in the State in professional manner and morale of the troops can’t be affected by some statements.

Addressing a press conference at Northern Command Headquarters in Udhampur on the occasion of investiture ceremony, Lt Gen Singh said 450 terrorists were operating in Jammu and Kashmir and the terror infrastructure across the Line of Control (LoC) was intact with full support of Pakistan as 16 terrorist camps were operating in the neighbouring country and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

“Several statements have been made by various leaders about troop pullout from Afghanistan. We are keeping a watch on how situation is going to unfold in the years to come. While no timeline has been fixed so far (for pull out), Army and all other Government agencies are keeping close watch on development in Afghanistan and monitoring what actions are being taken by the stakeholders.

“I assure that we are fully seized of the problem and prepared to deal with any eventuality if the militants (Taliban) try to infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir after troop pullout from Afghanistan,’’ the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Northern Command said.

It may be mentioned here that global terrorist Hafiz Saeed, based in Pakistan, had announced that Taliban operating in Pakistan would be pushed to Jammu and Kashmir to carry out subversive activities after troops are pulled out from Afghanistan by the United States and other countries.

In response to another question on statement by PDP president and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti against brave Army officer Major Rohit Shukla, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh said the Army conducts its operations in professional manner.

“We know the Government of India is committed to restoration of peace and normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir. Our mandate is conduct of counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir, which will continue in a professional manner. The morale of Army can’t be affected by the statements. Our operations are guided by strategy,’’ he asserted.

The GOC-in-C Northern Command said: “Everybody has been giving views of various incidents. The Governor has given his response. I want to assure that Indian Army conducts its operations in most professional manner. The Operating Procedure (SOP) is put in place”.

He said that there are ‘do’s and don’ts’ for every soldier, who is part of any counter terrorist operation.

“If anybody does any wrong, we investigate and take action accordingly. Please see through action not the statements only. Indian Army has been able to deliver good results”, Lt Gen Singh said.

He added that the strength of the Indian Army lies in its ability to carry out action and tactical operations in most professional manner. “It (the statements of politicians) has certainly not impacted as far as morale of the Indian armed forces is concerned’’.

Replying to a question on news reports that a coup was planned by the Army during UPA-II at the Centre, the Northern Command chief said strength of India lies in its Army being totally apolitical. “There is no truth in the story,’’ he added.

Lt Gen Singh said there was no let up in terror infrastructure in Pakistan and PoK with militant training camps intact but maintained that the troops were fully prepared to deal with any kind of situation and thwart infiltration attempts by the militants on the Line of Control.

“The number of terrorists is more on the north of Pir Panjal. Around 350 to 400 terrorists are active in Kashmir. On the South of Pir Panjal (the Jammu region), there are 50 terrorists,” he said.

He added that most of the terrorists on the South of Pir Panjal were dormant.

On security situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Lt Gen Singh said it was stable on this side. However, the operations are mostly conducted on the north of Pir Panjal (Kashmir) as more terrorists are present there.

Replying to a question, the top Army Commander said: “The Pakistan army, in its bid to support infiltration of terrorists from across the border, carries out ceasefire violations and certain tactical activities along the LoC.” He reiterated that 16 terrorist training camps were operating in PoK and Pakistan.

“They (terrorists) are being trained and then brought to the LoC. Then they infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir. We are keeping these (activities) under surveillance,” he said.

“According to reports, 191 youngsters are reported to have joined militancy. Most of the recruitment took place up to the month of August. There was a relative decline in the number of youngsters joining militancy from October till now,” Lt Gen Singh said, adding that concerted efforts are being made on part of the Army to reach out to the youngsters and their parents and teachers so that they prevailed upon the youth and persuade them not to join any outfit propagating terrorism.

“We hope that the youth engagement programmes will pay dividends in the months to come,” the Northern Army Commander said.

Castigating the narrative being created that it was an indigenous movement, he said of the 836 terrorists killed in the State in the last five years, 490 were “Pakistani or foreign terrorists”.

Lt Gen Singh added that there was a significant percentage of Pakistani terrorists, who were being used as cannon fodder and pushed into Jammu and Kashmir to cause casualties among Indian citizens.

However, the Army was taking action to arrest this trend, he said.

Lt Gen Singh said that Pakistan army has been using various social media platforms to be able to mobilize some of the youth of Jammu and Kashmir into militancy.

However, he added that Indian Army has developed effective counter terrorism capabilities and the collective efforts have yielded notable success and the fight against terrorism has now entered an important phase.

“Radicalization is not only a concern in India but a global concern. Pakistan and Pakistan army have been using various social media platforms to be able to mobilise some of the youth of Jammu and Kashmir into militancy”, Lt Gen Singh said.

He said that they (Pak and Pak army) are trying to develop narratives to alter public opinions with a view to fool the youth and bring disruption in the peace and stability measures being instituted in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Army Commander said that the issues related to de-radicalization and cyber security are being addressed at all levels.

As far as LAC along China is concerned, he said “we have been able to maintain peace and tranquility in entire region. There are well established mechanism in place for any kind of difference to resolve. We are able to carry out flag meetings and Border Personnel Meetings and exchange of views on hot lines for ensuring peace and normalcy.

There is not any occasion where some misadventure by Pakistan army or Pakistan army supported terrorists carry out nefarious designs, is not acted upon, he said.

As far as situation in hinterland is concerned, he said that Army have achieved major successes as far counter terrorist operation are concerned. “But credit goes to the people of Kashmir, who came forward with information and supported armed forces. They have understood that security forces are conducting tactical operations for ensuring peace”, he added, and said the incidents of stone pelting have gone down.

He said that visits of the Pakistan army officers to LoC on their side is a normal exercise. “We too visit forwards posts. I must assure you that all the visits of Pakistan officials to LoC are being monitored by us and we make our assessments and prepare ourselves accordingly”, Lt Gen Singh said.

As far as surgical strikes are concerned, he said that for Indian Army options are available. “It all depends on the situation. It depends on the operational consideration as to what tactical operation at which time is going to be taken to send right message to Pakistan army”, he said.

He added that through surgical strikes alone, “we did not expect that the terrorist infrastructure in PoK and Pakistan would really come down. surgical strikes were tactical operation to give a strategic message that Indian army has the capability to do acts which are unpredictable. we were successful in the conveying that message.”

On the issue of the investigation into the killing of Sepoy Aurangzeb in South Kashmir last year, Lt Gen Singh said “we got an information that from one to two Jawans have intentionally or unknowingly passed some information about the movement of Aurangzeb. Perhaps the terrorists picked up the news and took benefit of it. Probe is going on into this. We will share details once we get more information on this. But we have put in place strong mechanism.”

Meanwhile, the Indian Army has started the induction of new sniper rifles along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir.

Under the General Officer Commander-in-Chief of Northern Command’s special financial power, the Army floated tenders for procurement of 5,719 sniper rifles from global vendors in January.

“We have been able to commence the induction of the new sniper rifles (along LoC with Pakistan) and some more are still in the pipeline”, Singh said.