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Need for restraint

Need for restraint
Highlights

The statement by the Army Chief, Gen Bipin Rawat, has kicked off an undesirable storm. It has several ramifications for handling the sensitive Kashmir imbroglio. The acrimonious fallout can have grave implications for the fragile situation in the valley. 

The statement by the Army Chief, Gen Bipin Rawat, has kicked off an undesirable storm. It has several ramifications for handling the sensitive Kashmir imbroglio. The acrimonious fallout can have grave implications for the fragile situation in the valley.

The Army Chief reportedly said, "We would now tell the local population that people who have picked up arms, and they are the local boys, if they want to continue with the acts of terrorism, displaying flags of IS and Pakistan, then we will treat them as anti-national elements and go for them. They may survive today but we will get them tomorrow. Our relentless operations will continue."

It’s not to question the indefatigable fight of Indian armed forces against the terrorists and their abettors both within and across the border. The unparallel commitment of Indian Army to national sovereignty and integrity deserves salutation.

Though the essence of the statement may not be disputable, the problem is that it should not have come from the security establishment. Even in the terror-affected areas, the roles of Army and the civilian establishment are clearly cut out.

Army cannot ascribe to itself the role of dealing with civilian discontent even if it has internal security overtones. The lurking fear is that such statements may embolden the hawkish elements in the security forces.

The terrorists and their masters across the borders have always cashed in on the people’s anger over Army excesses to fuel anti-Indian sentiment. Such statements by the top boss of Indian Army would provide fodder for such hostile forces.

Precisely for this reason, even the Government of India is cautious in endorsing Gen Rawat’s remarks, and rightly so.

By not endorsing the statement, the government sends out a clear message that such sentiments, though understandable given the sensitive nature of operations, fall under civilian and political jurisdictions. The political establishment is better equipped to handle such situations.

Quite unfortunately, these statements can easily be portrayed as repressive wing of Indian state unleashing itself on general population.

Such an eventuality would only further alienate Kashmiri youth, making the work of security forces much more difficult.

Army and other security forces operating on the ground have every right to take operational decisions as the situation demands.

But, who constitutes a terrorist? Who can be described as over ground workers of terror outfits? The government should make it clear whether such questions fall under operational decisions or policy perspective.

Kashmir valley has been a witness to increasing number of civilian protests erupting to oppose security operations. If all these protests are seen as overt or covert operations of terrorists and handled accordingly, there is an every danger of extremists’ ranks swelling, further increasing the gravity of threat.

Kashmir crisis is not just a security challenge. Indian state also does not perceive only a military solution. Government often expressed willingness to negotiate with even extremists within the framework of India’s sovereignty.

Thus the civilian population, even if sympathetic to terrorists, cannot be brushed alongside such hostile elements. Instead, an earnest effort is needed to wean them away from terrorists.

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