Word of caution from ex-Army officers: be militarily correct, need political healing touch

Lt Gen Subrata Saha (retd), who was 15 Corps Commander at Srinagar till August 2015, emphasised the need for a long-term strategic solution.

Written by Sushant Singh | New Delhi | Published: April 16, 2017 3:29:30 am
Kashmir violence, man tied to army jeep, army jeep video, Kashmir man tied to army jeep, Kashmir youth assault CRPF, CRPF assaulted, youth heckly CRPF, stone pelting, stone pelting Jammu, Srinagar bypoll, Srinagar violence, India news, Indian Express The video, which went viral on social media here, has led to an outrage with former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, terming it as “shocking.
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WHILE THE Army has said that it is “investigating” and “verifying” the video showing a man tied to the bonnet of a moving Army jeep in Kashmir, retired senior Army officers, who were closely associated with operations in the state, have said the security personnel must be “militarily correct” and political leaders must reach out to provide the “healing touch”.

“What is worrisome is that it now seems to have become a direct fight between the security forces and the civilian population. This goes against our whole approach to counter-insurgency that people are the centre of gravity of all our actions. What has happened is that the political healing touch is missing. If it carries on any longer, it will end up brutalising both the security forces and the civilians. That is what we are seeing with these recent videos,” said Lt Gen DS Hooda (retd), who headed the Udhampur-headquartered Northern Command till last November.

Read | J&K: Shawl artisan says Army tied me to jeep, paraded me across nine villages

Speaking to The Sunday Express, he said: “Politicians must step up. They must stop vitiating the atmosphere further, and help to find a way forward. What we don’t see is any politician stepping forward, reaching out and saying that we must find some solutions.”

“Let us not get panicky about the situation. Our basics are fine. We have been doing things in the Valley. The population has to be the centre of gravity; the people have to be on our side. The Army has to understand the importance of perception management, image and social media. Because finally, it is a battle for the mind of the people,” said Lt Gen Hooda.

Lt Gen Subrata Saha (retd), who was 15 Corps Commander at Srinagar till August 2015, emphasised the need for a long-term strategic solution. “We have had this insurgency in Kashmir for the last 28 years now, and it has picked up in intensity since last July. We have to look for a long-term solution, which has to come at the strategic level. It can then be translated into action at the operational and tactical level sensibly,” he said.

“To make a difference, there must be clear direction from the very top,” said Lt Gen Hooda.

Retired senior military officers also emphasised the need for the security forces to be “militarily correct”. “We have the rules of engagement and the standard operating procedures. We have to follow them in totality. We have to be military correct in our actions, neither underdoing nor overplaying our hand. As far as this video is concerned, it is a one-off thing. It is as per the decision taken by the man on the ground to the best of his ability,” said Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (retd), who was the Director General of Military Operations.

“It is not the norm that was followed by that officer… It is not a professional move but a disruptive type of method. There were no casualties on either side and he has achieved his aim. But we can’t make it the norm. The Army will definitely carry out an investigation and learn from it,” said Lt Gen Gurmeet Singh (retd), another former Commander of Srinagar-based 15 Corps.

“In Kashmir, the Army is not merely an organisation. It is an institution and people have certain expectations from it. I am confident that the Army will do the needful,” said Lt Gen Saha.

“The Army has a professional job to do and the challenges have piled up over the years. All the parameters — radicalisation, recruitment, organising ability, social media — are going up. We also have to do everything to shape the cognitive domain of the people of the Valley,” said Lt Gen Singh.

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