'Army Ready To Relocate From J&K Hinterland If State Govt Wants'
4 August 2007
The Indian Express
New Delhi: The Army is ready to consider relocation of troops from the 'hinterland' of Jammu and Kashmir if the State Government is confident that local police can maintain law and order in rural areas. Rolling out this offer during an exclusive interview with The Sunday Express, with just a month to go before he demits office, Army Chief General J J Singh said, 'Troops involved in law and order duties can be adjusted depending on the level of violence. If the situation improves then they can be reduced. We are in the hinterland in support of the State Government.' Over 75,000 army personnel, mostly from 63 battalions of Rashtriya Rifles, are currently involved in 'hinterland operations' in Jammu & Kashmir. Currently, the Army is not deployed in any town or city inside the Valley or Jammu. And hinterland operations, in essence, involve control of key geographical features, protecting lines of communication and supporting law and order in the rural areas. 'We can consider relocating troops if the State Government tells us so. We did withdraw from Punjab and Mizoram after the violence levels came down,' General Singh added. However, General Singh ruled out any thinning of troops on the Line of Control till the border is delineated and defined. Echoing a similar view on troops involved in counter-infiltration in J&K, he said, 'Our counter-infiltration (CI) deployment is dynamic and keeps changing depending on the requirement in the state. Troops involved in CI duties cannot be relocated as infiltration levels from across the LoC are comparable to the past years.' But the Army Chief made it clear that his troops have been directed to move out of orchards in case an alternate accommodation is available or the orchard owner would be adequately compensated for his land on the basis of revised rates. He disclosed that even the para-military forces have been asked to move out of schools, hospitals and hotels in the state. General Singh reserved his opinion on Siachen and the internal security situation, but stressed that public support for ULFA was dwindling and accused the Northeast outfit of resorting to terrorism. On the Naxalite threat, the Army Chief favoured a solution with a socio-economic basis. 'Our experience in Northeast and Kashmir tells us that military application is only a part of the larger package that involves politics, societal changes and sound economics,' he said. Sounding satisfied on his stint as Army Chief, General Singh said his only regret is not having been able to modernise the Army more rapidly. Then, asking his successor, Lt General Deepak Kapoor, not to compromise on military preparedness at any point, General Singh said, 'During my two-and-a-half years, we were operationally ready at all the times as this is our primary job.' He also wanted his successor to ensure that human resource in Army is 'well treated, well-looked after and well-equipped,' and motivated to the highest levels. On the same note, he maintained that the recent incidents of suicides and 'fragging' under Northern Command had nothing to do with operations pressures. Clarifying that figures of such incidents are far below in comparison to other areas, General Singh said, 'In percentage terms, such incidents are more in Southern and Central Command as compared to the Northern Command and there is no spurt in such cases. It has more to do with societal changes rather than operations in the J&K.' General Speaks • Relocation of troops from J&K hinterland can be worked out if Azad Government wants • No thinning of troops from the LoC or the counter-infiltration grid • Will move out troops from Valley orchards if alternate site available • Regrets not moving fast enough on Indian Army's modernisation • Wants successor not to compromise on 24 X 7 military preparedness • Stress-related deaths in J&K are not due to operational pressures