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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Signs of normalcy in J&K, onus on Pak: Army chief MM Naravane

According to official data shared with Parliament in February, the year 2020 saw 5133 ceasefire violations, up from 3479 in 2019 and 2140 in 2018. There were 591 ceasefire violations during January and February this year before the announcement by the two countries.

Written by Naveed Iqbal | Srinagar |
Updated: June 4, 2021 6:57:05 am
General M M Naravane interacts with troops in Kashmir. (PTI)

As India and Pakistan approach 100 days of adherence to the ceasefire along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, Army chief General MM Naravane said Thursday that the situation in J&K points to a return to normalcy on all parameters, and the onus of ensuring that the ceasefire holds lies squarely with Pakistan.

He said “after a long time, we have reached a situation where peace and tranquillity prevails”.

Speaking to reporters in Srinagar at the end of a two-day review of security in the Valley, General Naravane said: “I have been briefed by all commanders on ground on the situation, both on the LC and in the hinterland. All the parameters that we judge normalcy by have seen great improvement. There have been very few terrorist-initiated incidents, hardly any cases of stone-pelting, no cases of IEDs in the recent past. All these are indicators of a return to a sense of normalcy… these are all indicators that the awaam (the people) also want the same.”

Reiterating that India will hold the ceasefire along the LoC as long as Pakistan does, he said: “The onus of making sure that the ceasefire holds is squarely on Pakistan. We are willing to observe ceasefire as long as they do so. While ceasefire is on, other activities that they are indulging in, that is the terror infrastructure there on the other side of the LC, that continues. Therefore, there can be no slackening, as far as we are concerned, in our level of preparedness or alertness.”

He said there have been “decades of mistrust” between Pakistan and India and the situation on that count cannot change overnight. However, “if they continue to observe the ceasefire in letter and spirit, if they stop and desist from trying to push terrorists across and foment trouble in India, then all these steps will definitely go incrementally to build that level of trust between the two countries,” he said.

On February 25, India and Pakistan, in a joint statement, said they had agreed on “strict observance of all agreements, understanding and cease firing along the Line of Control and all other sectors with effect from midnight 24/25 February”.

According to official data shared with Parliament in February, the year 2020 saw 5133 ceasefire violations, up from 3479 in 2019 and 2140 in 2018. There were 591 ceasefire violations during January and February this year before the announcement by the two countries.

Speaking on the possibility of troop reduction in the Valley as the situation improves, General Naravane said deployments are viewed periodically and if the situation permits, “then definitely we do take recourse to pulling out some troops from active deployment to the rear areas. So they also get time for rest and relief… but they will not be pulled out altogether”.

Stating that “after a long time, we have reached a situation where peace and tranquillity prevails,” he said the role of the Army lies in working in sync with the local administration and all other forces in J&K, with the ultimate aim of bringing down the level of violence so that peace and development can take place.

“We should shun this path of violence, it does not get you anywhere. We just have to see how the world has moved on, how India has moved on and, therefore, embrace the future. The world over, the future lies in shunning violence. If we do that, it will only hasten the process of ushering a new era of development and prosperity in the state.”

On the need to recalibrate the Sadbhavana efforts of the Army, General Naravane said: “We have been doing Sadbhavana projects for many years now, in fact more than two decades. Every idea, and Sadbhavana is one such project, had its relevance in a point of time.”

He said for 20 years “when the situation was bad and the local administration could not reach out to far-flung areas to carry out developmental activities,” the Army stepped in with its Sadbhavana projects “to ameliorate the sufferings and needs of the local population”.

“As the situation has improved, and as the administration is now being able to reach out to these areas where we were, we will now also change our strategy and recalibrate Sadbhavana activities in sync with the local administration. So that we do not duplicate efforts, and we carry out activities which are synergised and will go in a better and a more efficient way to bring relief and succour to those who need it,” he said.

Covid-19, the Army chief said, is another kind of war that the entire country is fighting. “I don’t think there is any single family that has not been affected by Covid. Therefore, it is our responsibility as the armed forces of the nation to do whatever we can for the help of our citizens.”

“We have left no stone unturned, we have spared no resources to help out in this hour of need. We have established various hospitals in not only the metros but in other areas also. We have helped the local administration in setting up additional beds, in repairing oxygen plants and providing oxygen cylinders, to the extent that we have even pulled out our medical staff, our doctors from less-affected areas and deployed them in the more high-pressure stations and areas where they were more Covid cases.”

“I am happy to say that overall, in the country, the number of Covid cases has now seen a downturn and we are well on the way to beating the second wave and, as a result of the capacities that we have built up over the last month and a half, I think we are much better prepared to tackle any third wave that may or may not occur,” he said.

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