JAMMU: Chief of army staff V.P. Malik on Monday described 1998, when the militants had made the ``most sustained'' efforts to step up violence in Jammu and Kashmir, as a ``good year'' for the security forces in combating militancy. He was of the view that the security forces would be able to do ``even better'' this year.
Talking to reporters here, Gen Malik pointed out that on the whole security forces had maintained ``an upper hand'' despite Pakistan's efforts to push in more foreign mercenaries and sophisticated arms and equipment through the borders.
That the situation had improved could be gauged from the fact that the civilian administration led by a popular government was now able to carry out its work with greater facility, the general maintained. Economic activities like tourism had also become relatively vibrant, he added. This would ultimately help in ending militancy, he said.
While the socio-political input was already being provided by the popular government, socio-economic steps were needed to be taken, especially in the remote and border areas, he suggested.
Admitting that militancy still existed, the army chief said: ``These things don't go away soon''.
Referring to his suggestion of holding talks with the Bodo militants in Assam, he said this was ``difficult'' in Jammu and Kashmir as its militancy was sponsored by a foreign power and talks could not be held unless the ``misled'' local elements wanted them.
Gen Malik claimed that a large number of Bodos had started surrendering due to pressure from the security forces. There were no foreign terrorists in Assam, he said.
Pointing out that lately, the army had shifted its focus of operations to areas south of the Pir Panjal ranges ( the Jammu region and Rajouri district), the army chief said the security forces' success in containing militants in these areas showed that the new steps taken to combat them were ``timely''. During the past three months, more militants were killed in this area than those killed during the previous two years, Gen Malik said and added that a large quantity of arms, ammunition and equipment had been seized.
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