The Army plans to draw down all its regular forces deployed in counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism and internal security duties from the North-East in the next 18-24 months, to focus on conventional warfare, said Army Chief General M M Naravane.
He said that two battalions have already been taken off from such duties and the next drawdown will happen after the Bodoland elections in Assam are completed in June-July this year.
“The North-East is going through a very transitional phase, for the good. The security situation is improving as shown by the recent surrender of 600 members of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and other groups. We are working on a plan for the next 18-24 months on how to draw down regular forces from CI/CT/ internal security duties there,” General Naravane told The Indian Express.
“Two battalions have already been taken off. Once Bodoland elections are done in June-July and situation stabilises, we will release more troops,” he said.
“We will be committed fully on our long-term objective to focus on conventional warfare.”
Asked if a similar drawdown was the plan for the Kashmir Valley as well, the Army Chief said: “As I have said even earlier, the primary task is conventional warfare and that is our long-term goal. CI/CT is a short-term and immediate goal. We have not lost sight of long-term goal while focusing on short-term goals.”
He said that the number of ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan have spiked post August 5 when Article 370 was abrogated by the Centre and the state was split.
“Attempts are being made for terror activities (by Pakistan). Incidents on the LoC have increased as they are under pressure that they have lost Kashmir. It is desperation on their part as situation is better in Kashmir. Stonepelting, ambushes, IEDs. all the incidents have come down.”
General Naravane said that the XVII Corps (Panagarh in West Bengal) and IX Corps (Yol, near Dharamsala) have been selected as the one where Integrated Battle Group (IBG) model of restructuring is being first employed. It will, thereafter, be implemented in other corps, as it “lends itself to wars of the future” and also “lends itself to theatrisation”.
The Army Chief said the Army has sent its budgetary requirements and “the government will look into all aspects in light of the prevailing security situation and we are quite confident that we will get what we need to keep the nation safe and secure.”
“…Whatever the Budget, we will continue to be modernised and be operationally prepared,” General Naravane stressed.
He said that rebalancing of the Army towards the China border should be seen in the larger perspective, “and not merely in terms of numbers.”
“Quality is the focus and there is a lot of capacity building that we are doing. It is not that it wasn’t happening earlier, it was always happening. Different priorities are given in LTIPP (Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan). we are modifying our operational plans, and for plans to be successful, backend is being put in place.”
Citing the example of better infrastructure, including more roads towards the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, he said that the closer these roads are to the LAC, the more can be the frequency of patrolling as time for each patrol will reduce. This will “allow us to dominate the area in a more effective manner”.
The Army Chief said that the need for rebalancing towards China border was done “to ensure peace, we have to be prepared for war. we have to be ready to take certain actions when time comes. We have to be prepared.”
He also said that the repeat order for six Apache attack helicopters for the Army is being discussed and these negotiations are likely to be completed by mid-year.
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