Normalcy will return to Jammu & Kashmir once the footprint of security forces is reduced and it gets back its statehood, said Lieutenant General (Retd) PM Hariz at the 5th Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon Param Vir Chakra annual memorial lecture on Sunday.
Speaking on “Kashmir, the unfolding story”, Hariz said that a strong J&K will strengthen India as it was an important region with a confluence of three religions — Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism. It is also the confluence of three nations, which are nuclear powers. “The return to normalcy is an issue that is going to keep everybody concerned about. It has been six months (since revocation of special status to J&K in August 2019). It has taken its time… I do not have answers as to how long it is going to take. But the government will do this at the earliest,” said Hariz who retired from service in November 2017 as the General Officer Commanding in Chief, Southern Command.
“The earliest the two Union territories go back to statehood and footprint of security forces are reduced in the entire state, only then you will have normalcy return,” said Hariz who was also the Honorary Army ADC to the President of India from January 1, 2017 till his retirement. He said that the removal of special status to J&K has helped assert to other nations that J&K was no more a disputed territory and “anti-national voices calling for azadi” have more or less been silenced.
Talking about the flip side of the abrogation of Article 370, the retired Army officer said that certain sections of people saw the move of dividing J&K into two Union Territories as a “demotion”, while others felt it was an “anti-Muslim” move. “Fundamentally, what hurt the Kashmiri, with the abrogation and the reorganisation efforts, was the fact that the rest of the nation celebrated… the fact that the nation took a greater happiness out of this…,” he remarked.
Speaking about the detention of political leaders in Kashmir, Hariz said that a political and leadership vacuum was continuing in Kashmir as no alternate leadership has tried to replace those detained.
Speaking on “IAF in the changed security paradigm”, Air Chief Marshal (Retd) BS Dhanoa who was the AOC-in-C of South Western Air Command at Gandhinagar, Gujarat, said as there was a greater probability of a terrorist attack on IAF bases so it was prudent to spend more on installation of integrated perimeter security systems on IAF bases than worrying about not having a having the full sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons.
“If you crystal gaze into the future, what are the likely occurrences for which we need to be prepared round-the-clock? We come to realise that a terrorist attack on one of our installations or personnel has the highest probability of occurrence and it can occur anytime and anywhere… We need to reprioritise our expenditure on spending most on what is more likely to happen. Hence spending most on integrated perimeter security systems of our bases is more important than bemoaning of not having the full strength of 42 squadrons,” said Dhanoa who was the commanding officer of a front line ground attack fighter squadron and had led the IAF during the “limited war” against Pakistan during the Kargil war.
Talking about the Balakot attack, Dhanoa said, “A very wise political decision was taken to respond against a nonmilitary target — that too a Jaish-e-Mohammed itself, who were perpetrators of Pulwama attack. So the government’s political objective was very clear. To tell Jaish-eMohammed and the Pakistani establishment that such attack will come at a cost, no matter where you are. Be it Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir or Pakistan proper, we will get you. That was essentially the message of Balakot.” He also said the flying environment in Naliya, Bhuj and Jamnagar were the “best in the country”.
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