25 February 2001
The Hindustan Times

New Delhi: IN WHAT is perceived as a change of tactics, the Army headquarters has given a go-ahead to troops in Jammu and Kashmir for conducting 'surgical strikes" against pan-Islamic Lashkar-e-Tayebba and Jaish-e-Mohammed groups on the basis of hard intelligence. Government sources said the military establishment and the paramilitary forces have chalked out a multi-pronged strategy for improving civil-security forces relations. The objective is not to allow jehadi groups to scuttle the peace process and at the same time facilitate political activity. The Army's directives are in line with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's statement in Parliament yesterday on extending the ceasefire in the state. The PM made it clear that the peace process was only for those "who wished to benefit from it". Under the new set of guidelines, the security forces have been directed to strike at the jehadis if there are specific inputs regarding the hideouts, movement or area of operations of the militants. This is a change from the earlier stance, where the security forces were only mounting surveillance. Counter-insurgency operations were only directed at cross-border infiltration. The motive behind singularly targeting jehadis is to drive a wedge between those for and against the peace process. The parties in favour of peace have been asked to tell their followers not to carry weapons as there was a risk of them being mistaken as militants. However, the idea of conducting strikes after identifying whether the militant is easier said than done. The group allegiance of a particular militant can only be known either through surveillance or through his fellow militants. According to sources, there have been instances of security forces being led astray by a captured Lashkar or Harkat-ul-Mujahideen militant. The Army's strategy also focuses on improving the civil-military relations. For this, the security forces are making an all-out effort to protect prominent citizens of the state. This includes local Kashmiri leaders, who have genuine support at the grass-roots level and do not rely on coercion. This move is to avoid any recurrence of Haigam type of incident.


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