‘In today’s age of instant media, it is important for the Army to be honest and transparent in its action’

  • Shabir Ibn Yusuf
  • Publish Date: Feb 5 2018 2:15AM
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  • Updated Date: Feb 5 2018 2:15AM
‘In today’s age of instant media, it is important for the Army to be honest and transparent in its action’

Retired Lieutenant General Deependra Singh Hooda has served both as chief of the Udhampur-based Northern Army Command and before that as General Officer Commanding of the Nagrota-based 16 Corps. He led Army’s ‘surgical strike’ inside Pakistan following the killing of 19 soldiers in a fidayeen attack in Uri.  

In an interview with Shabir Ibn Yusuf,  Lt Gen D S Hooda says the final solution to any internal conflict will obviously have to be found in the political realm, “as is the norm in any democracy”. 

 

Excerpts from an interview 

 

YOU ARE ONE OF THE RARE INDIAN ARMY GENERALS WHOSE VIEWS STRIKE A CHORD IN VALLEY TOO. IT IS BECAUSE YOU HAVE PUBLICLY TALKED ABOUT THE HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN THE STATE AND CALLED FOR A POLITICAL SOLUTION.

To be frank, my views are no different from a vast majority of senior officers who have served among the people of Jammu and Kashmir. In the Army, we clearly understand the importance of human rights. Our approach is people-centric because it would be very poor strategy to turn the population against us by any kind of violations impacting on civilians.

The Army is also clear that its role is limited to controlling violence in order to ensure that governance is not held hostage to the terrorists. The final solution to any internal conflict will obviously have to be found in the political realm, as is the norm in any democracy.

 

In today’s age of instant media, it is important for the Army to be honest and transparent in its actions. It is my experience that truth, sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter, is always the best way to deal with any situation.

 

JUST WHEN THE SITUATION SEEMED TO BE ON THE REBOUND, THE KILLING OF TWO YOUTH IN SHOPIAN HAS SET IT BACK.

We have got into an unfortunate cycle in Kashmir. As you said, just as the situation seems to be getting a little better, some incident will trigger another round of disturbances.

I think everyone who has some responsibility for ensuring normalcy in the state must introspect. The unfortunate reality is that we are in a conflict zone and conflict has its human costs. However, we should avoid exploiting any tragedy. The blame game, finger pointing, boycott calls and the media hype only serve to worsen the situation. The whole discourse takes a different direction.

The civil population and the security forces are both under pressure. Let us not make black and white decisions on who is wrong in a particular incident. Maturity in dealing with such cases will be the key, although I understand that this is not easy in a vitiated atmosphere.

 

LAST YEAR 218 MILITANTS WERE KILLED IN THE ANTI MILITANCY OPERATIONS. BUT THE NUMBER OF THE ACTIVE MILITANTS NOW  IN THE VALLEY IS MORE OR LESS WHAT IT WAS IN THE BEGINNING OF THE LAST YEAR. 

I am not aware of the exact numbers but it has been acknowledged by the state authorities that there has been an increase in locals joining terror outfits. This is a challenge. I think it is not about the numbers who have joined, but the trend of youngsters picking up the gun.  The youth are our future, and should not be left blinded or lying bloody on a street.

It is easy to blame the government and the security forces for locals joining militancy but the civil society also cannot escape responsibility. If parents and relatives praise the deaths of their sons and the Hurriyat calls for greater ‘martyrdom’, they are being unfair to their children. 

 

WHERE DO YOU SEE THE SITUATION IN KASHMIR GOING IN NEAR FUTURE. DO YOU SEE ANY PROSPECT OF MILITANCY BEING REIGNED IN. MANY KASHMIR OBSERVERS APPREHEND THE   SITUATION MIGHT GET WORSE. 

I think we need to be realistic about the situation and not overplay success or underplay the challenges. The militancy can be reigned in, just as it has been many times in the past. But other steps to calm the situation down have to be taken. It is my personal opinion that we have not reached a point that control has been lost or will be lost in the future. However, we also cannot let things drift along in the hope that the population will get tired.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THAT THE GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO  DO IN REGARD TO KASHMIR. OR WHAT IS IT THAT THE CURRENT GOVERNMENT APPROACH IS MISSING.

There is a simple answer to this - the government needs to clearly enunciate its approach. And the approach is that ‘we care for the people’. Somehow the impression has got created that the government has adopted  a muscular policy. This needs to be reversed.

 

SURGICAL STRIKES IN PAKISTAN WERE CARRIED OUT UNDER YOUR LEADERSHIP. ARMY HAS MADE IT KNOWN IT WILL DO MORE SUCH STRIKES, IF NEED BE. WILL IT BE POSSIBLE FOR THE ARMY TO CARRY OUT MORE OF THEM  WITHOUT INVITING A RESPONSE FROM PAKISTAN AND RISKING AN ESCALATION.

Pakistan has a huge role in stoking conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. The surgical strikes were one way of messaging that the cost of this interference does  not come easy. We should not worry too much about escalation from Pakistan. There is very little comparison between India and Pakistan in terms of national capability and if there is any country that should be concerned, it is Pakistan.