‘MIL­I­TANT LEAD­ER­SHIP VOID IN VAL­LEY’ TER­ROR LAUNCH PADS IN POK FULL: LT GEN RAJU

LT-GEN BS RAJU, Gen­eral Of­fi­cer Com­mand­ing, 15 Corps, Sri­na­gar

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - FRONT PAGE -

Notwith­stand­ing the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, Kash­mir is brac­ing for a familiar sum­mer­time pattern of last three decades of Pak­istan-spon­sored in­sur­gency: an es­ca­la­tion in in­fil­tra­tion bids on an in­creas­ingly ‘live’ Line of Con­trol and a surge in mil­i­tant vi­o­lence in the hin­ter­land. The killing last week of two army of­fi­cials in an en­counter, fol­lowed quickly by se­cu­rity forces’ re­tal­ia­tory op­er­a­tion elim­i­nat­ing Riaz Naikoo, a top com­man­der of Hizbul Mu­jahidin, are the lat­est point­ers to what may lie ahead in the volatile Val­ley agog with a new por­tent of likely im­pact of with­drawal of Amer­i­can troops from Afghanista­n. In an in­ter­view with Ex­ec­u­tive Ed­i­tor Ramesh Vi­nayak, Lt-Gen BS Raju, Gen­eral Of­fi­cer Com­mand­ing of Sri­na­gar-based 15th Corps, dwelt on the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion and se­cu­rity chal­lenges in the Val­ley. Edited ex­cerpts:

What is your as­sess­ment of the cur­rent se­cu­rity sce­nario in Kash­mir?

The present sit­u­a­tion in Kash­mir is sta­ble but frag­ile. Pre­cau­tion­ary and pre-emp­tive mea­sures are be­ing taken for the safety and se­cu­rity of peo­ple, and these have been in­stru­men­tal in sav­ing in­no­cent lives. Post-Pul­wama, we have suc­cess­fully neu­tralised the top lo­cal com­man­ders of var­i­ous ter­ror­ist out­fits, thus re­sult­ing in a lead­er­ship void. Many over­ground work­ers (OGWs), who were pro­vid­ing lo­gis­tics and other ma­te­rial sup­port to ter­ror­ists, have been ap­pre­hended in joint op­er­a­tions with other se­cu­rity agen­cies.

How has the dy­nam­ics of Pak­istan’s cross-LoC sup­port to ter­ror­ism changed in last one year or so?

Pak­istan has con­sis­tently found ways and means to fur­ther its agenda of fo­ment­ing ter­ror in the Val­ley. It per­sists in do­ing that. Nu­mer­ous in­tru­sion at­tempts have been foiled and Pak­istan army is con­stantly re­sort­ing to cease­fire vi­o­la­tions to sup­port the ter­ror­ists’ in­fil­tra­tion.

What has been the out­come of anti-mil­i­tancy op­er­a­tions since the ab­ro­ga­tion of Ar­ti­cle 370 in Au­gust last year?

Mil­i­tancy has since been on a sharp de­cline due to our per­sis­tent ef­forts. We had an­tic­i­pated that Pak­istan will in­crease its ef­forts to cause tur­moil in Kash­mir. In spite of best ef­forts of Pak­istan-spon­sored prox­ies, there has been no loss of civil­ian life in se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions. That in fact has been the hall­mark of ef­forts of all stake­hold­ers for main­te­nance of peace in Kash­mir.

What is the cur­rent state of mil­i­tant out­fits ac­tive in Kash­mir?

We work on con­cepts, and not num­bers. And the con­cept is the con­stant at­tempts by Pak­istan to in­fil­trate ter­ror­ists and war-like stores to com­mit sen­sa­tional ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties. Over the past year, the lead­er­ship of all ter­ror­ist

‘tanzeems’ (or­gan­isatons) in­clud­ing Hizbul Mu­jahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, An­sar Ghazwat-ul Hind and Jaish-e-Mo­hammed has been ef­fec­tively tar­geted and elim­i­nated. There is now a def­i­nite lead­er­ship void.

The num­ber of ter­ror­ists presently op­er­at­ing in the Val­ley has also greatly dwin­dled ow­ing to the re­duced re­cruit­ment and the re­cent suc­cesses in the coun­tert­er­ror­ist op­er­a­tions. In all op­er­a­tions, we ex­tend ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to lo­cal ter­ror­ists to ‘re­turn’. Half way through, the en­coun­ters are halted and the par­ents or so­ci­ety el­ders are in­volved to urge the trapped lo­cal ter­ror­ist to ‘re­turn’. We call it ‘Op­er­a­tion MAA’ where the moth­ers ap­peal to their sons gone astray, and we have been suc­cess­ful many times.

What has lately been the trend in lo­cal re­cruit­ments to mil­i­tant ranks?

The re­cruit­ment of lo­cal youth in the ter­ror­ist ‘tanzeems’ has re­duced by more than 45% from 2018 to 2019 and is even lesser in 2020. The Pak­istan-spon­sored prox­ies who are in­sti­gat­ing and in­dulging in stone-throw­ing and re­cruit­ment have failed in their at­tempts. To­day, the stonethrow­ing has also come down to neg­li­gi­ble in the re­cent months. Also, the life span of a ter­ror­ist has come down dras­ti­cally, with 64% get­ting elim­i­nated within one year. Join­ing ter­ror­ist ‘tanzeems’ has be­come a non-lu­cra­tive op­tion for the Kash­miri youth have un­der­stood the false nar­ra­tives of sep­a­ratists and now see through the Pak­istan-spon­sored pro­pa­ganda.

How has the re­stric­tive In­ter­net im­pacted the mil­i­tant out­fits?

That has ren­dered the ter­ror­ist ‘tanzeems’ less ef­fec­tive in car­ry­ing out their agenda and lim­ited the spread of false nar­ra­tives be­ing spread by Pak­istan to mis­guide the youth of the Val­ley. Presently, 2G and broad­band in­ter­net is avail­able and that en­ables all es­sen­tial work on the in­ter­net. If the high speed in­ter­net is re­stored now, Pak­istan will try to vi­ti­ate the peace­ful en­vi­ron­ment by em­ploy­ing its on­line pro­pa­ganda ma­chin­ery.

What is the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion on the Line of Con­trol?

The Pak­istan army knows our ca­pa­bil­i­ties very well. Ev­ery day, we have in­fil­tra­tion at­tempts on LoC even at a time when the whole world is com­ing to­gether to fight coro­n­avirus. But, our counter-in­fil­tra­tion grid is very ef­fec­tive in neu­tral­is­ing -these in­fil­tra­tors.

What chal­lenges you fore­see in the cur­rent sum­mer months?

Pak­istan has al­ways wanted to dis­rupt nor­malcy in the Val­ley and these sum­mer months would be no dif­fer­ent. It is un­able to di­gest that Kash­miris are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing peace and im­proved law and or­der sit­u­a­tion. The in­fil­tra­tion bids will go on. The un-co­or­di­nated ter­ror­ist acts in the hin­ter­land are a sign of des­per­a­tion. All that is well an­tic­i­pated. Ev­ery plan is in place to thwart any such at­tempts.

What is your as­sess­ment on the likely con­se­quences of the US-Tal­iban pact in Afghanista­n on the se­cu­rity sce­nario in Kash­mir?

The de­vel­op­ments in the sub-con­ti­nent, in­clud­ing the US- Tal­iban deal, will have an im­pact on the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Kash­mir. The ter­ror­ist launch pads in Pak­istan Oc­cu­pied Kash­mir are full, and Pak­istan army is try­ing its best to push max­i­mum in­fil­tra­tors into the Val­ley to dis­rupt peace.

Is the in­ter­nal se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Kash­mir steady enough to re­vive on-ground po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties?

On the po­lit­i­cal front, the gov­ern­ment has clearly enun­ci­ated the ob­jec­tives and ben­e­fits of the new po­lit­i­cal land­scape. The sub­ject of po­lit­i­cal con­jec­tur­ing is not within the purview of my man­date. To sup­port all po­lit­i­cal/ ad­min­is­tra­tive ini­tia­tives, se­cu­rity forces have been proac­tive in en­sur­ing that peace and tran­quil­lity are main­tained. We have made re­peated ap­peals to moth­ers, par­ents, el­ders and other opin­ion mak­ers to ask lo­cal boys gone astray to shun the gun and re­join the main­stream. I am happy that many such boys have cho­sen to ‘re­turn’.

How do you plan to bol­ster the army’s out­reach to the com­mon Kash­miris?

Our out­reach pro­grammes through Sadb­ha­vana ini­tia­tives in­clude qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion to about 10,500 stu­dents through 28 army goodwill schools (AGS) in the Val­ley. The ini­tia­tives of Su­per-50 (en­gi­neer­ing) and Su­per-30 (med­i­cal) and ca­pac­ity build­ing tours to other states, have been very ef­fec­tive and have achieved stu­pen­dous re­sults. As per our records, no stu­dent of AGS has ever joined ter­ror­ism. It proves that good par­ent­ing and qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion make bet­ter cit­i­zens.

ON NET CURBS

In­ter­net re­stric­tions in Kash­mir have ren­dered the ter­ror­ist out­fits less ef­fec­tive in car­ry­ing out their agenda and lim­ited the spread of false nar­ra­tives be­ing spread by Pak­istan to mis­guide the youth ›

ON PAK DE­SIGNS

The ter­ror­ist launch pads in Pak­istan-oc­cu­pied Kash­mir are full, and Pak­istan army is try­ing hard to push max­i­mum in­fil­tra­tors into the Val­ley.

ON ANTI-TER­ROR OPS

The life span of a ter­ror­ist in Kash­mir has come down dras­ti­cally, with 64% get­ting elim­i­nated within one year. Join­ing ter­ror­ist out­fits has be­come a non-lu­cra­tive op­tion for the J&K youth.

HANDS-ON GEN­ERAL At the helm of op­er­a­tionally most ac­tive Chi­nar Corps since March 1, Lt-Gen Raju is lever­ag­ing his in­ci­sive un­der­stand­ing of past five J&K stints to deal with se­cu­rity chal­lenges. HT PHOTO

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