On his last day in office, Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda said he didn’t see an easy solution to end the Kashmir conflict, calling it a “long war” that would require a “long-term approach”.
His comments are significant as government sources predict that the conflict with home-grown militants will end soon.
A day after seven soldiers were killed in the Nagrota strike, Hooda said on Wednesday that the situation along the Line of Control was not cooling down anytime soon and the hinterland would also remain hot.
He warned against calling “the first shot fired against a garrison” a security lapse, saying 100% success each time in preventing attacks reflected “little understanding of the battle the army is fighting”.
“If we look at everything from a two-month perspective, we will end up adopting a short-term view. That will be counter-productive in terms of dealing with Pakistan.”
“I wish we could have prevented the Nagrota strike but some setbacks have to be accepted…and we learn our lessons. We have to move on, rather than let one incident set the discourse for overall national security,” he said.
Sixty soldiers have died in J-K this year. Hooda said the army was ruthless about finding ways to minimise casualties. “We understand this more than anyone else because our lives depend on it.”
On the alleged lapses that may have led to the attack, he said, “Two officers deliberately put themselves in the line of fire to rescue women and children. Let us respect that rather than sitting in peaceful areas and mouthing criticism.”
He added that alleging lapses before carrying out a detailed analysis “dilutes what soldiers are doing on the ground”.
Hooda said the army moved swiftly to kill the militants who attacked the Nagrota base or else it could have been worse than the Uri attack in which 19 soldiers were killed.
He rubbished reports about actionable intelligence being available on the Nagrota attack. “We launch hundreds of operations in J-K daily on the basis of intelligence inputs. In this case, we had no specific inputs.”
He said there was an urgent need to tap smart technologies for perimeter protection of military bases to complement human effort.
Hooda added that soldiers were at the highest alert level but there were limits to human endurance.
On the situation worsening after the September 29 surgical strikes, he said: “If we look at everything from a two-month perspective, we will end up adopting a short-term view. That will be counter-productive in terms of dealing with Pakistan.”