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?No military solution to terror?

The army may have vowed to crush the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) but hope for peace in Assam will require more than that, reports Rahul Singh.

india Updated: Jan 13, 2007 15:58 IST

The army may have vowed to crush the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) but hope for peace in Assam will require more than that. Unveiling the army’s new doctrine for sub-conventional operations on Friday, Army Chief General J.J. Singh said that the approach to counter terrorism had to be multi-dimensional as opposed to a purely military solution.

Singh said that the army was carrying out surgical strikes to put Ulfa cadres on the backfoot and bring them to the negotiating table. “We are performing our role, but the Assam problem has a politico-socio-economic dimension that needs to be addressed. We cannot task ourselves with finishing the entire lot of the ULFA,” he said.

The crux of the 76-page doctrine — brought out by the Shimla-based Army Training Command — is that sub-conventional campaigns, including counter-terrorism operations, have to hinge on addressing the root causes of the conflict in line with national policy and strategy. In a foreword to the doctrine, General Singh says: “The document encapsulates our collective wisdom and philosophy that we have acquired over almost five decades in fighting such warfare.”

The doctrine emphasises a humane approach towards the populace at large in the conflict zone. It prescribes use of “overwhelming force” only against “foreign terrorists and other hard-core inimical elements”, while affording full opportunity to “indigenous, misguided elements” to shun violence and join the mainstream.

Defining the parameters within which the army is expected to operate, the document places special emphasis on “scrupulous respect for human rights” and encouraging “neutralisation” of terrorists by seeking surrenders and apprehension rather than only “kills”. It deals with environmental trends and dynamics of the conflict zone, formulation of military strategy, operational facets, intelligence, training and leadership.

General Singh said the army had “neutralised” 1,186 terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir during 2006 and achieved an attrition ratio of 7.2:1 (more than seven terrorists liquidated for every soldier killed). He said the force levels in the state were being reviewed constantly and redeployment would be carried out from one theatre to another, depending on the ground situation.

The Army Chief also said that though aid to civil authority was a constitutional obligation of the army, the paramilitary option should be exercised first.

Email Rahul Singh: rahulsingh@hindustantimes.com