'PLA efforts to alter status quo were and are being effectively countered'
The Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) agreed to push for “early disengagement” of their frontline troops at friction areas on the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh at the ninth round of military talks on Sunday. Lt Gen YK Joshi, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Army’s Northern Command, spoke to Ravi Krishnan Khajuria, about the current situation in Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir. Edited excerpts:
What is the current situation in eastern Ladakh?
The operational advantage achieved by our troops on August 29-30, 2020, has put the PLA on the backfoot in key areas. This gives us the position of equivalence. Necessary measures have been put in place to respond to any threat over the entire spectrum of conflict. Any efforts by the PLA to change the status quo were and are being effectively countered. The 9th Corps Commander-level talks were held on January 24. The focus is to restore the status quo ante pre-May 5, 2020, and the same has been communicated to PLA counterparts. They also want to disengage at the earliest. It is difficult to fix timelines for such a complex issue, yet we are hopeful of an early and amicable resolution.
In case of a conflict, how prepared are we?
We have been relentless from the moment the situation escalated in eastern Ladakh in May 2020. Our troops are equipped with the wherewithal to inhibit any PLA misadventure.
Chinese have ramped up border infrastructure along LAC. What about us?
In May 2020, the existing infrastructure helped [Indian] forces to effectively counter the PLA threat. The infrastructure has been boosted in terms of roads, bridges, billeting of troops, availability of weapon systems in the tactical battle area. Apart from the civil administration and government machinery, Border Roads Organisation has also pitched in to support the troops. IAF [the Indian Air Force] has also played a major part in ensuring that an air bridge is up and running once the roads close due to snow.
Pakistan is using drones and digging cross-border tunnels to push arms, drugs, and terrorists into Jammu & Kashmir. How are we tackling this?
A strong counter-infiltration grid, physical domination at multiple tiers, and the latest technology have brought down the intrusion rates to negligible along the LoC [Line of Control]. There is a state of despondence among terror groups which is forcing ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] and the Pakistan Army to explore alternate methods. ...these [tunnels] are dug up under fields that are invisible due to tall elephant grass on the Pakistan side. BSF [Border Security Force] has launched an anti-tunnel drive across the IB [International Border]. We have ground-penetrating radars that help in the detection of tunnels, anti-tank mines, and IEDs [improvised explosive devices], besides anti-drone systems.
On Army Day, you said the internal situation in Jammu & Kashmir is stable and under control but has the potential of flaring up. Can you elaborate?
The situation is stable yet the dynamics that are at play are never constant. Our adversaries have left no stone unturned to keep Jammu & Kashmir on the boil. With the actions taken by the administration and measures adopted by security forces, Pakistan Army is facing an existential threat. It will attempt to use all its cards to flare up the situation. The increasing number of unilaterally unprovoked ceasefire violations, Pakistan-based tanzeems [organisations] trying to enhance recruitment, providing financial support to overground workers, and narco-sponsored finances for terror activities are proof of their desperation.
How is the situation in the Kashmir Valley? How many terrorists are still active there?
In Kashmir, the synergised counter-terrorist grid eliminated 184 terrorists including top commanders, in 2020. Several hideouts were also busted, and large quantities of arms and ammunition were seized. Actions by security forces and intelligence agencies led to arrests of a large number of OGWs [over-ground workers], thereby denting the network of tanzeems. The situation has moved towards peace, but the challenge lies in sustaining it.
What is being done to reverse the trend of radicalisation of Kashmiri youth by Pakistan via the internet?
ISI, which is spearheading the proxy war in Jammu & Kashmir, is employing a host of social media platforms and technologies for spreading propaganda, pushing radicalisation, and intensifying a false sense of victimhood. The drop in their cadre strength due to a robust counter-infiltration grid has forced Pakistan to create digital tanzeems as proxy fronts to Hizbul Mujhaideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which are using social media for recruitment. This effort is being countered by a comprehensive multi-agency initiative. The deep monitoring of social media platforms and cyber-surveillance of suspects has been undertaken.
How many terror launch pads are active across the LoC?
Over the last 30 years, Pakistan has established an extensive terror infrastructure comprising terrorist training camps and launch pads across the LoC. We have confirmed reports of 19 active terrorist camps and over 50 launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. As per reports, around 300 terrorist cadres are ready to infiltrate. Of these, most are of Pakistan-origin terror groups such as LeT, JeM and Al Badr.
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