Spike In Chinese Troop Incursion, Sanctity Of LAC Maintained: Gen Singh

Spike In Chinese Troop Incursion, Sanctity Of LAC Maintained: Gen Singh

13 January 2014
The Daily Excelsior


New Delhi: Army chief Gen Bikram Singh today said there should be no dilution of AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir in view of the prevailing situation in the region, including possible terrorist spillover into the Valley after US drawdown in Afghanistan. “We need to look at developments in Afghanistan in 2014 before we can look at perhaps tampering with or diluting the disturbed areas (act). This is in regard to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in J&K,” he said here. Gen Singh said it would be prudent to “wait and watch for a while” before taking a call on AFSPA. “As per military’s prespective, (in view of) the situation prevailing in the Valley, I think we should wait for a while to see whether the situation remains the same, worsens or improves. Based on that we should take action,” the Army chief said. In a word of caution, he said perhaps there may be a certain amount of spillover from Afghanistan into J&K. “There are certain inputs alluding to this already. And, therefore, we need to be on guard,” he said at a press conference on the eve of the Army Day on January 15. Asked about the statement of Aam Aadmi Party leader Prashant Bhushan that AFSPA should be lifted from J&K, Gen Singh said as a matter of principle, “I never comment on statements of political leaders….Our national prespective is that it is our country, J&K is our State and nobody should have any doubts about it. We are implementing the national strategy and the Army is playing its role as part of that.” Gen Singh said India will respond in equal measure if Pakistan breaks any rules as he revealed that 10 Pakistani soldiers had been killed in a recent military action. He rejected the perception that Indian military has not retaliated against the beheading of its soldiers by Pakistani troops last year. “Let me assure you that action has been taken… If I can invite the attention to the Geo TV report on December 23 which talked of their one officer and nine jawans being killed with 12-13 being wounded. This has happened due to firing of your soldiers on ground. They have done their bit,” he said. Gen Singh said it is virtually a “mini war at the local level” whenever ceasefire violation takes place on the LoC. “The soldiers are doing a stupendous job. The local units are doing a good job. The soldiers have reacted well and they have reacted well as required,” he asserted. When referred to the repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistan on the LoC, the Army Chief said, “It depends, if rules are followed by our neighbours, we follow the rules. If rules are broken, then obviously we cannot stick to the rules. Even we are going to break the rules.” At the same time, he said that through retaliation, the “endeavour is not to escalate the situation into operational or strategic arena. It is to deal with the same measure if not more and give a befitting response in a professional manner at place where we are fired upon.” Gen Singh was asked about to comment on the notion among common people that though he had promised retaliation after the beheading of its soldiers in Mendhar sector, no action has so far been taken. Last year on January 8, one Indian soldier was beheaded by Pakistan Army troops in a cross-border assault after which Gen Singh had said that the Indian Army reserves the right to retaliate at the time and place of its choice. Elaborating on this statement, Gen Singh said he wanted to give the “freedom of action to local commanders to deal with the situation accordingly as they deemed appropriate.” Commenting on today’s ceasefire violation, he said he has asked the Director General (Military Operations) Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia to look into the matter and talk to his Pakistani counterpart on the issue. He said the particular violation in Poonch area today started after Indian troops detected movement of three terrorists trying to infiltrate into Indian side. “We will give them a befitting reply if infiltration is attempted.” The chief said this was first incident of ceasefire violation after October 27 when the DGMOs of the two countries talked to each other and it will be taken up with Pakistan side. On a mysterious video purportedly showing the head of Lance Naik Hemraj, who was beheaded by Pakistan Army last year, he said the force was verifying the authenticity of the footage and if it is correct, then it would be taken up at appropriate level. He criticised the media for showing the video saying the soldiers should be portrayed only as heroes. On the 2010 encounter of Machhil in Kashmir, he said the legal procedures have brought out charges against two officers and jawans and they are facing the summary General Court Martial. He said the action taken by the Army in the Machhil case will send out a strong message in the service against staging fake encounters in future and it has reiterated the Do’s and Don’ts and ten commandments of the Chief of Army Staff on human rights issue. “There is a zero tolerance policy towards human rights violations and this shows our commitment in this direction. We have the utmost respect for the law of the land and we will uphold it,” Gen Singh said. He refused to comment on the proceedings in the Pathribal case saying the matter was sub-judice and it was not appropriate for him to comment on it. On the incidents of attacks on jawans and units along the LoC, he said, “I will be very honest with you. I will confess that there was deviation from the laid down standard operating procedures. There was a degree of complacency as a result of which these incidents occurred.” The Army chief said whether the incidents happened on the LoC or cities, “There was a certain amount of deviation from SoPs. We have carried out introspection and proper measures have been instituted by the formation and unit commanders to make sure that we do not present such a situation again to any terrorist or any adversary.” In August last year, Pakistan’s Border Action Team (BAT) had attacked an Army patrol in Poonch sector when they were taking rest and three terrorists had stormed inside a unit in Samba and killed officers and troops there. Asked about a report suggesting that two off-the-air interceptors were dismantled and thrown in a river in Jammu and Kashmir, Gen Singh refused to comment on the matter, saying it was related to intelligence set up. However, he said such issues are informed to the Government by the force. Gen Singh said there was a “spike” in incursions by Chinese troops in some sectors along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), but noted that the sanctity of the temporary boundary was being maintained. Singh said that there was “inadequacy” in terms of infrastructure along the boundary with China but plans were afoot to improve the situation. “Let me be frank, somehow two incidents got hyped up last year. Even Indian soldiers are patrolling up to our perceived LAC… A certain amount of spike has been seen in certain areas, but let me assure you that our patrols are also going in those areas,” Singh said, when asked about incursions by Chinese troops. Last year, Chinese troops had pitched their tents in the Depsang area, 19km inside Indian territory, and left only after long parleys between the two sides. They also apprehended Indian nationals near the Chumar area who were returned after several days’ detention. Singh said that the recently-signed Border Defence Cooperation Agreement had helped improve cooperation between the troops of either side. The file for establishing a DGMO- level hotline has also been sent in this regard, he added. Asked to comment on the perception that the Army was not giving a tough response to the Chinese troops, he said some of the incidents were hyped, leading to people thinking that our troops were not working. As to whether the lack of infrastructure was hampering Army operations along LAC, he said, “There is inadequacy at the moment but there are plans afoot. Last year, we have the allocation of Rs 9,200 crore for infrastructure and a CCS note has been prepared for Rs 28,000 crore for the 12th and 13th defence plans.” Gen Singh said that there are steps being taken, “to improve the infrastructure. A large number of roads and rail lines are to be prepared. There are slippages and we need more focus on this”. The Government has decided to outsource the road-building work to some established agencies, Singh said, adding that, at the same time, it would also build the capabilities of the Border Roads Organisation for the carrying out of such tasks. Asked if he could assure that there would be no repeat of 1962, when India was humiliated by China in war, the Army chief said that such an eventuality was not possible now as India had well-developed capabilities of defending itself against any threat. “A 1962 shall not happen again. Your Army is professional and has the capability,” he said. On the newly-raised Mountain Strike Corps, he said that on January 1 this year, the headquarter of the formation was raised at Ranchi while 22 of its units were raised on December 1 last year. “The 59 Division has been raised at Panagarh in West Bengal, one brigade each has been raised in Eastern Command and Northern Command and all the formations are being raised under a well laid out plan,” he said. The Army chief said that the Strike Corps was not just a war waging instrument but for “war prevention” as well. The Corps will be headquartered at Panagarh and has been raised at Ranchi temporarily till the infrastructure comes up at the West Bengal base. Asked whether the force’s plans to raise the Strike Corps would face difficulties in the economic slowdown, he said the fiscal situation “will impact us but the Defence Minister has assured that our requirements will be met.” Stung by Union Minister Jairam Ramesh’s protest, Gen Singh said he will ensure that there is no inconvenience to anybody when his convoy moves. “As far as not respecting the traffic sense and rules are concerned, I have passed very clear orders that our Military Police should not be anywhere,” he said. “I respect the law of the land and I respect the position of any Minister. It has to be done in a democracy. I know my place, therefore I will ensure that when my convoy moves, it does not cause any inconvenience to anybody,” he added. His comments came days after Ramesh, Rural Development Minister, was stuck in a jam here when traffic was stopped by Military Police for the movement of the Army chief’s convoy. An agitated Ramesh then shot off a protest letter to Defence Minister A K Antony. The Army chief also called him to apologise. “I called him up as a soldier, I regretted that I caused inconvenience to him,” he said. The Army chief noted that policing is a state subject, the local police should control the traffic. “The traffic will be managed by civil police, it is their right, their job. Let them prioritise the traffic movement. If they need to give priority to somebody, may be somebody much below the chief, so be it,” Gen Singh said. Referring to Ramesh’s remarks on ‘lal batti’ (red beacon) culture and security convoys, the Army chief explained that since he is a ‘Z plus’ security protectee, a particular number of vehicles have to move in his convoy. “We are a democracy and I respect the democratic norms. The road sense got to be followed. We got to respect the sensitivities of our countrymen,” he added. The Rural Development Minister had said he would write to Antony about Military Police taking over Delhi Police’s duty and clearing the routes for service chiefs when they move around the national capital. Citing the “vagaries” of battlefield, the Army chief ruled out women officers getting into combat zones in the near future but said they will be given command-roles in the support arms. The General said there were “deviation” from standard operating procedures and “a degree of complacency” in incidents of attacks on troops and units along the Line of Control (LoC) and in cities. “I don’t think we would be prepared at this point of time given the kind of infrastructure we have today to have ladies become part and parcel of infantry battalions…. We have to do it in a systematic manner as there are vagaries of the battlefield and situations which have to be taken into account before we get them into the arena,” the Army chief said. He was asked when the women officers would be inducted into combat roles in the force. The Army chief said the “end-state” for the force was to achieve gender equality and it was creating additional opportunities for the lady officers in the combat support arms such as the Artillery and Engineers. “We are moving towards enhancing their role in the force by giving them command portfolios and additional avenues for permanent commission,” he said. He said the role of women has increased since they first started joining the force in 1990s as they are now getting more avenues. The Army chief stressed on the need for having wives’ welfare organisations, saying even the US has realised the importance of such bodies after the Iraq and Afghanistan operations where the morale of the troops has to be kept high by looking after their families. Gen Singh refused to answer queries related to his predecessor Gen V K Singh and his summoning by the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, saying he respected the institution of Army Chief and his predecessors.