By Lt Gen IS Singha*
The low profile meeting of all army commanders in Srinagar last week could not have been a retreat to beat the summer heat. It has to do with the heat being generated on the line of control and the Kashmir valley. Raids by the JK police at the meeting of the separatists and their rounding up also fits into the mosaic. It seems the central government has decided that enough is enough and tough actions have to be taken to beat the continuing proxy war by Pakistan. The intensity of operations are going to be at higher levels this summer.
In the last two years Indian Army has been in the eye of the storm as never before whether it was Pathankot, Uri, surgical strikes, beheadings, stone pelting, killing of Wani and his successor or civilians dying in collateral damage. Spokespersons of political parties, animated anchors, retired bureaucrats and generals have had a field day in commenting on the actions of the apolitical and secular army. It seems the nation is not fully aware of the capabilities, the inner strength and cohesiveness of the third largest army in the world which had captured 93,000 prisoners of war and liberated a nation struggling for self rule.
Having worked with more than 50 armies of the world in my years with United Nations peacekeeping at senior management and directional levels, I have no doubts that Indian Army is one of the most experienced armies in sub conventional operations with its ethos, elan and emaculate credentials showing restraint and concern for human life by using minimum force and avoiding collateral damage sometimes at the cost of losing valuable lives of its brave soldiers.
Its professionalism and ethos, human rights record, officer man relationship, peacekeeping and peacemaking capacity is noteworthy making it one of the best armies of the world. It is a pity that whereas the international community recognises its contribution to world peace, the nation at large undermines its sincere efforts and highlights its short comings by not sparing any opportunity to put it under the moral scanner.
Sub conventional operations need unorthodox and out of the box solutions. The act of saving valuable lives by a quick witted field officer has been questioned at great length. A lot has been made of the inhuman manner in which a youth was tied up ahead of the army jeep during the elections in Badgam district of J&K. Un conventional methods are always followed in combatting insurgency and the operations are rightly called sub conventional operations. Using human shields to minimise bloodshed and violence is as old as warfare itself. The terrorists in J&K have been using women and children as human shields for last 28 years.
There are innumerable examples in history of kidnapping a prince or princess to leverage deals with emperors and kings. In Sri Lanka, if Indian Army soldiers were moving in buses or tractors, they were blown up by land mines laid by the Tamil Tigers. On the contrary, if a mix of soldiers and civilians were travelling, not a single case of blasts took place. We were forced to move along with some civilians to minimise casualties on the move.
In a democratic country we always talk of human rights of citizens but rarely talk about human rights of the soldiers who are also citizens and form the minority of honest tax payers. Some high headed politicians have also remarked at times that soldiers are paid to die. Soldiers are paid to protect and safeguards the nation, its citizens and assets both on the borders as well as within.
If some misguided citizens are willingly taking actions that endanger the lives of soldiers who are safeguarding the ballot booths then what are the commanders and soldiers expected to do ? Should they let their comrades be lynched by the unruly stone pelting crowd who is interfering, distracting and desisting soldiers to do their job at the behest of a terrorist state that has been fighting proxy war for the last three facades ?
Gen Bipin Rawat has been forthright in standing by his officers and men who work day in and day out under trying circumstances in their effort towards conflict management in north and north eastern states of the country, By not mincing any words, he has turned out to be a soldiers’ general and must be commended. It should also be noted that in a democratic set up, a chief would not be as candid as him if he did not have a political nod. The time has come to squarely face the threat and deal with Pakistan in a forceful manner and use all political and diplomatic leverages.
KPS Gill, the so called super cop who died last week, could not have turned around the situation in Punjab and finished terrorism in a dramatic manner had he not been helped by the Indian Army operating silently in the background. It is a lesser known fact that the army had a great role in sanitising and controlling the rural areas and movement of terrorists to the urban areas thereby allowing the police to take decisive action against the isolated militants.
The military intelligence also helped the police in rounding up around eighty top militant leaders who had come to attend the bhog ceremony of a dreaded terrorist in Taran Taran. The then chief of the Indian Army, the late General Bipin Joshi passed strict instructions for the Army to work silently and not take credit, thus allowing the Punjab police to hog the lime light.
The time has come again for all instruments of the government to work together in a synergised manner and align their efforts to achieve peace in the sensitive border state of Jammu and Kashmir. While security forces can only bring the situation under manageable limits, political astuteness, meaningful development and job generation can only bring the people back from the brink.
( The author Lt Gen Singha has handled the Kashmir desk in Military Operations Directorate for over three years during the peak of insurgency in 1990s )