Jammu, Apr 18: Amidst fresh wave of violence in Kashmir, which has taken toll of five including a woman, Army chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag today held high level review of security scenario with Northern Army Commander, top Army Commanders of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and Air Commander, Western Command at Northern Command Headquarters in Udhampur in which he called for strictly dealing with militants and anti-national elements and sticking to liaison with para-military forces as far as law and order situation is concerned to ensure that innocent civilians were not killed and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is strictly adhered to.
Sources in Jammu and New Delhi told the that apart from Kashmir situation, which came up for specific review, the Army chief had detailed assessment of the situation prevailing along the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) with Pakistan and LAC with China including latest Demchok incident on Ladakh and Army’s strategy for upcoming Unified Headquarters meeting.
GOC-in-C Northern Command Lt Gen DS Hooda, AOC-in-C Western Command Air Marshal SB Deo, GOC Nagrota based 16 Cops Lt Gen RR Nimbhorkar, GOC Kashmir based 15 Corps Lt Gen SK Dua and Leh based 14 Corps GOC Lt Gen SK Patyal attended the high level meeting among others that was chaired by Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag at Northern Command Headquarters, where he flew this morning from New Delhi. He returned in the evening.
Sources said Lt Gen Hooda and Lt Gen Dua gave detailed briefing to the Army chief on “new wave of protests’’ in Kupwara district of the Kashmir valley, in which an Army bunker was torched and Army base at Natnusa was stoned. They were reported to have said that the mob was not quiet but violent. They said the Army opened firing in rarest of rare circumstances on the civilians as they don’t possess non-lethal weapons.
According to sources, the Army chief said the troops should adopt strategy in liaison with para-military forces for crowd control and strictly adhere to the SOP, which was already in place for such kind of incidents. However, he was reported to have directed the Army Commanders to go all out against the militants and anti-national elements—both along the LoC and hinterland as they pose threat to country’s security.
“There can be no compromise with militants and anti-national elements. Such elements had to be dealt with sternly,’’ he reportedly told the top Commanders.
According to sources, the Army chief also had a review of situation prevailing along LoC and IB with Pakistan and LAC with China in Eastern Ladakh. The recent incident of Demchok along Sino-Indian LAC in Ladakh also came up for review, they said, adding GOC 14 Corps of Leh Lt Gen SK Patyal briefed the Army chief on the incident.
Sources didn’t rule out the Army seeking flag meeting with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China on the incident but said a decision on this would be taken on the return of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar from China, where he has gone on three-day visit.
It may be mentioned here that Chinese troops had stopped the work on laying of water pipes from a spring to provide tapped border to the people living in border village of Demchok and surroundings. The local people held massive protest against the Chinese troops recently.
Sources pointed out that top Army Commanders were also reported to have discussed Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and reviewed work on fencing and infiltration attempts.
“There was unanimity among the Army top brass that time hasn’t come for lifting AFSPA from any part of the State. They were also of the view that current year could witness maximum infiltration attempts by the militants along LoC in Jammu and Kashmir as the militants were desperate to infiltrate in view of sharp depleting strength of their cadre in the State,’’ they said.
The Army chief reviewed progress on fencing work and called for plugging all gaps along the LoC to thwart infiltration attempts by the militants. He called for exercising maximum vigil along the LoC this season following inputs of intrusion bids to keep graph of the militancy well under control.
According to sources, the Army chief asked the Commanders to devise their strategy for taking up the issues during Unified Headquarters meeting, which was likely to be called shortly by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. The GOC-in-C Northern Command and all GOCs of Jammu and Kashmir are members of the Unified Headquarters.
The Army was likely to take up the issue of alternate land in place of the land it has been asked to vacate and land for the Field Firing Ranges (FFRs) as its troops were suffering in the absence of adequate space for firing practice.