Army Making Targeted Kills Of Terrorists In J&K, Manohar Parrikar Says

21 May 2015
Times of India
Rajat Pandit

New Delhi: India is going in for intelligence-backed 'targeted kills' against terrorists in J&K while militarily dominating the Line of Control with Pakistan, forcing a 30% drop in both cross-border ceasefire violations as well as infiltration bids. 'The situation is pretty much under control. Our proactive attitude is to identify terrorists and then effectively neutralise them. Every case is handled firmly with clear-cut intelligence for targeted kills, ensuring minimal if any collateral damage,' defence minister Manohar Parrikar said in a wide-ranging exclusive interview with TOI. This is the first forthright acknowledgement that the Army has been asked to undertake surgical strikes against terrorists, rather than conduct random operations. Incidentally, the Army neutralised 110 terrorists in 2014, the highest such tally in the last four years. Ahead of his visit to J&K and the frozen frontier of Siachen on Friday, Parrikar clarified that when he said 'terrorists should be neutralised by terrorists' or 'kante se kanta nikalna (remove a thorn with a thorn)' earlier in the day, he did not mean covert operations being undertaken by 'our own people'. Instead, the aim is to exploit the differences between terror outfits for both intelligence-gathering as well as surgical strikes. 'Many terrorists are drawn into terrorism because of financial allurements... they are paid money for it. If such people are there, why not use them? What is the harm is using terrorists against terrorists? Why should our soldiers be in the front?' asked the straight-talking Parrikar. On Pakistan's behaviour, the defence minister said 'the situation actually depends on how we react to it', stressing India's 'very firm' response to cross-border firing and abetment to terrorism was paying dividends. As per defence ministry figures, there has been a decline of 32% in Pakistan-initiated ceasefire violations and a decrease of 28% in 'successful infiltrations' since the Modi government came to office in May last year. On the China front, Parrikar made it clear he had imposed just a 'temporary freeze' on the ongoing raising of the Army's new mountain strike corps (MSC), which is geared towards acquiring quick-reaction ground offensive capabilities across the Line of Actual Control (LAC). 'It's downsizing of the plan (the 90,000 soldiers strong formation was to be raised at a cost of Rs 64,678 crore over seven years), not the MSC itself. The previous UPA government arbitrarily approved it without any allocation of funds or proper planning,' he said. 'I have put a temporary stop (to the MSC)... it does not mean permanent. The 37,000 troops already inducted need proper infrastructure, arms and equipment, which are currently being drawn from our reserves since the previous government made no arrangements,' he said. The minister said he would undertake a review of the non-operational flab in the 1.18-million strong Army, which would then be slashed to save on costs. 'I will first make financial provisions and then come back to the MSC,' he added. The raising of the new corps, the 17 Corps, which began in January 2014, is part of the overall military plan to belatedly counter China's menacing build-up of trans-border military capabilities and infrastructure all along the 4,057-km LAC. The Army believes that it will not only act as a deterrent against China, but also keep Pakistan off-balance. The logic was to have 'requisite deterrence' since China can move over 30 divisions (each with over 15,000 soldiers) to the LAC, outnumbering Indian forces by at least 3:1 there. With two new infantry divisions geared for high-altitude warfare as well as armoured, artillery, air defence, engineer brigades spread from Ladakh to Sikkim, the 17 Corps is slated to have its headquarters at Panagarh in West Bengal and be fully in place by 2018-19.