Army Chief General Bikram Singh on Monday cautioned that a “wait and watch” approach should be followed for the withdrawal of the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from Jammu and Kashmir as there are concerns about a spillover effect from Afghanistan due to the drawdown this year, even as he asserted that a strong reply has been given to last year’s cross-border raids by Pakistan, referring to reports that 10 Pakistani soldiers have been killed in India action across the Line of Control (LoC).
Singh, who sought to reject notions that India’s response to the Pakistani raids last year that left seven soldiers dead (one of them beheaded) were soft, referred to reports from Pakistan last month that said 10 soldiers, including an officer had been killed in firing by India and 12-13 had been injured. On being asked what retaliatory action has been taken, the Army Chief said that soldiers “have reacted well as required” and that there is an endeavour “not to escalate the situation into operational or strategic arena”. He also said that India has been trying to follow the rules of engagement on the border, but if they are broken by Pakistan, retaliation has to happen.
“It depends, if rules are followed by our neighbours, we follow the rules. If rules are broken, then obviously we cannot stick to the rules. Even we are going to break the rules,” said Singh said ahead of the Army Day celebrations on Wednesday. Singh also made a case for no dilution yet of the AFSPA and the Disturbed Areas Act in Jammu and Kashmir, arguing that the drawdown of international security forces from Afghanistan can have a spillover effect.
“We need to look at developments in Afghanistan in 2014 before we can look at perhaps tampering with or diluting the Disturbed Areas (Act)… the situation prevailing in the Valley, I think we should wait for a while to see whether the situation remains the same, worsens or improves. Based on that we should take action,” said Singh. “There are certain inputs alluding to this already. And therefore, we need to be on guard,” he added. On incidents on the China border, Singh said that while there has been a certain spike in incursions in some sectors along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), there has been an equal response from the Indian side as well. Referring to the Depsang incident last year and reports of frequent transgressions, he said, “Let me be frank, somehow two incidents got hyped up last year. Even Indian soldiers are patrolling up to our perceived LAC.”
Giving details on the creation of the new Mountain Strike Corps, Singh said the headquarters was formally raised on January 1 and the process of creating 22 major and minor units was started on December 1. He said the strike corps was not a war-waging instrument but a war-prevention instrument as well.