Army set to scale down operations in Kashmir
Scenario ready for political process, says senior officer
Army operations in Kashmir are heading towards a point where other processes, especially political ones, can take over so that soldiers could return to the borders, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the strategic 15 Corps Lieutenant General Anil Kumar Bhatt said. Speaking exclusively to
The Hindu in Srinagar, Lt. Gen. Bhatt said, “Results of operations never come in the short term... but we are making headway. The Army can always create conditions of peace and tranquillity for other processes, most importantly the political process, to take over. Presently, we are reaching there. In the long-term strategy, any Army would prefer to do its primary role of protecting the borders.”
On the growing number of local youth joining militants this year and the killing of 37 militants in November — the highest for any month in the ongoing offensive — the officer said a change in tactics was yielding results.
“One, there is cooperation from people. Two, we shortened operations and finished them in the night. The idea is not to be get involved in crowd control. It’s equally important for us to avoid civilian casualties. We have slowly learnt our lessons,” he said.
He said the build-up of local terrorists, even two years after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhwan Wani’s killing, was an area of concern.
Social media a worry
“There is a bench strength terrorists maintain and fill it with people who are on the sidelines waiting to get recruited. The social media has been a challenge to us to this end .... Photos of youth posing with guns posted online is done as part of strategy, so that the door to return [to civilian life] is shut.”
“The trend has waned considerably in the past two months. It had reached 24 recruits a month in June-July,” said the Army commander.
Stating that the launching pads for militants in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir did see a dip during elections in that country, Lt. Gen. Bhatt said, “It has increased since, as 250 to 300 terrorists are waiting to infiltrate. What they (Pakistan) speak publicly has not changed anything on the ground.”
“What is also turning the tide against the terrorists is that a lot of people have been at the receiving end of the terrorist atrocities of worst kind and are refusing to provide shelter to them,” Lt. Gen. Bhatt said. He said targeting policemen or security forces personnel at home or during leave “was a new low on the part of terror groups”.
However, the Army will abide by its rule not to go after “terrorists’ families or non-armed civilians”, he added He said approximately 300 terrorists were still operating in the Valley, with 175-180 in South Kashmir, while 57 had surrendered or been apprehended this year.
Lt. Gen. Bhatt said there was no case where the Army’s soldiers crossed the line or violated Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) during operations this year, even in the incidents of Kulgam and Shopian, which left seven civilians dead.
General Anil Kumar Bhatt.