India, Pakistan Army Chiefs Square Off On Kashmir Issue

19 October 2014
India Today
Rezaul Hasan Laskar

New Delhi: The army chiefs of India and Pakistan squared off on the Kashmir issue on Saturday, with General Dalbir Singh directing his commanders to put 'relentless pressure' on terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir and his Pakistan counterpart, General Raheel Sharif, reiterating Islamabad's push for Kashmiris to be given the right to self-determination. During his address at the culmination of the Army Commanders Conference, a key brainstorming session of the top generals, Indian Army chief Gen. Singh referred to the internal security situation and 'stressed on the need to maintain relentless pressure on the terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir'. This is necessary so that the terrorists 'are not capable of disrupting the forthcoming elections', Singh was quoted as saying in an official statement. The polls are due in the last week of November so that a new government can take over by January 19, 2015, when the current Assembly completes its term. Gen. Sharif, who was addressing a passing-out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul, raked up the Kashmir issue and pushed Islamabad's line that Kashmiris should have the right to self-determination and said his force would give a 'befitting response' to any 'aggression'. 'Lasting peace in the region will only come about with the fair and just resolution of the Kashmir issue in accordance with the will of Kashmiri people as enshrined in the UN resolutions,' he said. 'Coercion and repression of the Kashmiri people will never shake their confidence to ultimately exercise their freedom of choice promised by the international community. It is our firm belief that the determination of our Kashmiri brethren and collective conscience of free world will bear fruit and their aspirations will eventually be realised,' he claimed. The general, whose remarks echoed recent comments by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz, said the Pakistan Army is fully capable of 'deterring and defeating aggression across the entire spectrum of threat'. 'Yet, we persistently seek peace in the region and beyond... We desire regional stability and a relationship based on equality and mutual respect. Sentiments of goodwill and amity notwithstanding, let there be no doubt that any aggression against our beloved country will get a befitting response and no sacrifice will be too great in this sacred cause,' he said. The Line of Control and International Border in Jammu and Kashmir recently witnessed the worst exchanges of fire since a ceasefire was put in place in late 2003 and the Indian government has directed its troops to forcefully retaliate against shelling by Pakistani troops. The tensions on the frontiers coincided with efforts by the Pakistani leadership to internationalise the Kashmir issue. The situation in Afghanistan, where US-led foreign forces are preparing for a drawdown, figured prominently in the speeches of both army chiefs. Singh, without naming Afghanistan, referred to external security concerns and advised his commanders to 'continuously assess the situation in the subcontinent with respect to the force and security transition taking place and its resultant effect on the nation's security'. Sharif expressed the hope that the 'new political dispensation in Afghanistan brings peace, stability and prosperity to the people of Afghanistan and the region at large'.