Hours after the Congress announced the task force on national security headed by him, Lieutenant General (Retd) D S Hooda, who oversaw the September 2016 surgical strike across the Line of Control, said he did not have “too many doubts” when Rahul Gandhi suggested the idea to him as he felt it was in the national interest. He said this decision was taken before the Pulwama terror attack.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Hooda, who headed the Army’s Northern Command when it conducted the surgical strike, said: “We will look at both the internal and external security environments and craft a strategy that could form the basis of our diplomatic and security policies for the next five years.”
He said that he had no plans “as of now” to join the Congress or stand for elections. Hooda said he plans to talk to some foreign policy experts, former diplomats and former police officers urging them to be part of the task force.
“The decision to form the task force was taken before the Pulwama attack happened. Just that it has been announced now,” he said.
Hooda said he had a meeting with the Congress president earlier this month. “The Congress asked if I was willing to do this. The Congress president specifically. I met him. He asked whether I would be willing to take up this task of preparing something like a national security strategy. And I agreed.”
“The way I am looking at it is that if we can prepare a professional document, that is in the national interest and that subsequently leads to a debate on national security strategy, national security issues, the direction that India should be going in over the next five years. Then we would have done some service to the country,” Hooda said.
“I am not looking at the politics of it (the assignment). People will, I am sure, try and put some political angle to it but if you ask me my personal perspective, it is that if we can do something which is in national interest and it leads to a debate on these issues…after all, there has been a demand that India must have a national security strategy, so if can come up with something that leads to a debate on this, I think we would have some national service. That is how I am looking at it,” he said.
“I was in uniform for 40 years. You served the country and somebody is asking you to do something which I felt was in national interest, I didn’t have too many doubts, frankly,” he added.
In November, Hooda had submitted a report on “Restructuring the Indian Army” to the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), headed by NSA Ajit Doval.
“Did the overhype help? I say, completely no,” he had said last December about the surgical strikes. “If you start having political resonance in military operations, it is not good. There was too much political banter, on both sides, and when military operations get politicised, that is not good.”
A couple of months after his retirement, he had told The Indian Express in February 2017 that “there is anger and a certain amount of angst among the youth. See, the answers are not difficult and it is not rocket science to understand what needs to be done. There is need for engagement, particularly with the youth”.
Besides being the Northern Army Commander from 2014 to 2016, Hooda commanded the Nagrota-based 16 Corps and headed a division in Manipur.