Speaking about the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir in the backdrop of the recent terror attack in Pulwama, in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed, Southern Army Commander Lieutenant General S K Saini on Tuesday said “the external drivers overwhelm the internal influences” in the region. He also said the Indian Army has been continuously revising its strategies to tackle suicide attacks.
Lt Gen Saini was speaking on the sidelines of the Investiture Ceremony of the Southern Command, during which medals for gallant operations and distinguished service were awarded to officers and soldiers, and best-performing units were given citations.
Responding to a query on the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, Lt Gen Saini said, “India has been fighting insurgency and terrorism, starting sometime after independence, when the conflict in Nagaland started. We have a very clear national policy to tackle insurgency, which has three tenets. First is the rule of law and Constitution, second is the use of minimum force and the third is that special nuances of a particular area be factored in, including development and political initiatives. Any conflict has two aspects — external drivers and internal influences. As far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned, the external drivers overwhelm the internal influences. And that is a problem in J&K as against the insurgencies in other places, where we have been able to find answers.”
Lt Gen Saini, who has served and led formations in insurgency-affected areas, added, “In J&K, the Army has a time-tested strategy. To have a robust anti-infiltration posture and undertake relentless operations in the hinterland inside while ensuring minimum inconvenience to the civil population. But, along with that, win the hearts and minds of the people and manage perception. The terrain is hilly and has jungles so it is not possible to plug the entire stretch of the Line of Control. So, it is important for us to ensure that the terrorists who are trying to infiltrate are blocked and eliminated. Any conflict undergoes transformation over a period of time. For example, in J&K in the 1990s, there were more foreign terrorists than local ones. Around 2000, the ISI thought that local elements should be increased, so around 2004-05, this equation of foreign and local terrorists started changing.”
Speaking about the suicide attack in Pulwama and the Indian Army’s strategies against it, Lt Gen Saini said, “We have to take into account that most security mechanisms are based on the premise that anybody who tried to enter an area would want to go back. But, in the case of a suicide attack, that assumption is undercut. That is why in some cases, they are able to defeat the security mechanism, drills and procedures. Nonetheless, the strategy to combat the menace of suicide attacks is continuously revised based on the trends that emerge. It is a continuous process that ushers in refinements in our operating methodology, training and other battle procedures.”
He added, “When we look at the incident in Pulwama, there are some differences and some similarities with the past attacks. There have been earlier fidayeen or suicide attacks, where the local youths were involved. But in this case, a vehicle-borne IED was used. The content of explosives in the vehicle was high, which caused that kind of damage.”
The Army Commander said in the end, “the Army is prepared to take on any challenge, whether it be dynamic external challenges or attempts by inimical forces to undermine internal stability. Incidents such as the Pulwama attack have not affected the morale of the Army and it is high as always.”
Honours for soldiers and units
In the Investiture Ceremony of the Southern Command, the Army Commander awarded Sena Medal (Gallantry) to eight officers, one junior commissioned officer and 10 other ranks, including two posthumous awards. Twenty more officers were honoured with medals for distinguished services. The Army Commander also gave Unit Citations to 19 Units of Southern Command for their meritorious and outstanding performance. Of these 19 units, four had participated in relief and rescue operations during the Kerala floods in August last year.