Generals of Indian Army very rarely go public.
They are glued to army discipline. In particular, on policy matters, Generals never open their mouth. However, in a rare case, General Officer Commanding of the Srinagar based 15 Corps, Lt General S A Hasnain made some candid and frank comments on a few aspects related to army’s presence in the state.
In a press conference, when asked about the demand for withdrawal of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act), an issue that has become somewhat controversial, and on which good deal of thinking is going on, the Corps Commander very candidly and politely reiterated the oft-repeated stand of the Army. He said that his superiors and the Army Command had expressed its views. The Army has been fighting a proxy war in Kashmir which is a mix of guerilla war, war of attrition and war against disinformation.
This has been a new experience for the Indian Army which has fought three conventional wars against Pakistan. The militants are using civilians as their shield and the Army is committed to protect the civilians. The separatists have spread the wrong notion that special powers given to the army are meant to suppress and harass the civilian population in Kashmir. The truth is the reverse of it. The militants are either from the neighbouring country who have infiltrated clandestinely into the valley or they are the Kashmiri boys who have been lured to training camps in PoK or Pakistan.
The army needs special powers to deal with them so that they are incapacitated from causing harm to the local civilian populations. Thus the General meant to say that continuance of special powers for the Army is a necessity for ensuring return of normalcy to the state. Apart from this a step has been taken to resolve the deadlock and hopefully army has no objection to it.
It is agreed that the areas in Kashmir declared non-disturbed will naturally be vacated by the Army and with that the AFSPA will also go. So it is a matter of time and no controversy has to be entertained. Once entire Kashmir is declared non-disturbed area, the Army will return to barracks and nobody will speak of AFSPA.
The second significant point made by the General is that the Army does not envision any threat to national security from the rehabilitation of the estranged Kashmiri youth back in the valley.
We know in some political circles a hue and cry was raised on the issue of allowing the boys to return from PoK where they had gone for receiving training in militancy in the camps set up by Pakistan. It is known to all that these boys were lured to those camps where they were first brain washed and then given training in terrorism and subversion. An innocent and young mind can easily be corrupted because of young age. If the realization has come to him after many years, he is not to be discouraged. He has already suffered because he has wasted many precious years of his youth which is an immense loss. However the General was speaking essentially from security point of view.
Depending on the preparedness of the jawans of Indian Army, the General exuded confidence in Army’s ability to tackle militancy whenever and wherever it raises its head. This has to be a message to the militants that the army does not lower the guard notwithstanding what decisions the civilian government takes. The fact of the matter is that the youth who had crossed over to PoK are the Indian citizens and they cannot be denied entry back into their national territory.
If they have committed a crime or the breach of law, the law will take care of that. It is something else to be kept away from enjoying the right to their nationhood. No national or international law allows that a citizen is disallowed the right to citizenship.
The General also reacted to the question of the impact of fighting in AF-Pak region on Kashmir security. Again his candid answer merits a mention. Af-Pak region lies in our geographical proximity. We know that the jihadis are committed to creating disturbance in Kashmir. If they are able to gain some ground in that war-torn region, naturally it will be a matter of concern for us and our Army will have to gear up to that situation. The General has that situation in mind and he has assured the nation that the Army is prepared to meet any challenge of that kind as long as it has the full backing of the nation.
Speaking at another press interaction after his “Awami Sunwai” he maintained that the Kashmir issue cannot be solved militarily.
“I don’t think the state, the Indian Union, has ever looked upon this situation as if it can be resolved militarily. India has always felt that the army and the military is here to stabilise the turbulence and there after it has to be a political solution.”
He said no problem in the world which involves people has been resolved militarily. “Military has a role to ensure that environment becomes stable.”
The pragmatism of the General has to be lauded.
This article first appeared in the editorial columns of Daily Excelsior of 17 March 2011( http://www.dailyexcelsior.com/epaper/) and Indian Express of 03 April 2011 (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/army-is-needed-in-kashmir-official/771020/)
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