‘J&K move timed to avoid fresh violence, checkmate Pak’: Army chief Bipin Rawat
One month after the nullification of Article 370 of the Constitution, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat has backed the timing of the move, and called upon the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the militants to give peace a chance.
“Another phase of violence was going to start and the timing was right because Pakistan was also under pressure of being placed on the black list by the Financial Action Task Force. I told the government the army would provide the military support it needed to implement the decision,” Rawat said in an interview with Hindustan Times,
FATF, a multilateral watchdog, placed Pakistan on its “grey list” in June 2018 for failing to counter fund-raising by terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). Following an assessment meeting in June in Florida, it urged Pakistan to swiftly complete its action plan to counter terror financing by October 2019. “Otherwise, the FATF will decide the next step at that time for insufficient progress,” the watchdog said, indicating it may place the country on its “black list”, which entails harsher financial sanctions.
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In the interview, the army chief said the people of Kashmir and the militants should give peace a chance.
“There has been violence for 30 years and you have been through difficult times. Leave the anger behind and give peace a chance,’’ Rawat said.
He said he was offering a “peaceful gesture” to the terrorists. “We are not going after the terrorists because we don’t want a gunfight to vitiate the atmosphere. I don’t want to lay cordons and conduct searches, but we have to clap with both hands. Think about it and drop your guns. This generation has not seen peace,” he said.
The general blamed “some instigators” for continuing restrictions, saying the minute the curbs were relaxed, there is trouble and the Valley is locked down again. “The instigators are not allowing the benefits of the process of integration (through the nullification of Article 370) to come in.”
On August 5 and 6, Parliament effectively revoked Article 370 of the Constitution that conferred special status on Jammu and Kashmir, and Article 35A that reserved benefits like government jobs and property ownership for people deemed to be permanent citizens of the state. The state is to be divided into two Union territories -- Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Pakistan has stepped up re-opening terror training camps and attempting to push infiltrators across the line of control. Asked about Pakistan’s continuing war rhetoric, Rawat said, “I am ready for whatever Pakistan wants. If it wants a BAT (border action team) action, I am ready. If it wants limited action with India, I am ready and if it wants war with India, the Indian army is ready.”
Rawat said that Pakistan has only exposed itself through its rhetoric. It was telling the world that it was not sending terrorists to India but by speaking up now, it is in effect owning up to its support of terror.” You cannot prepare terrorists in 15 days. On the line of control, we remain ever prepared and in the Valley, we remain every deployed,” he said.
Asked if the rising anger in the Valley would lead to more local Kashmiris joining the ranks of militants, he said, “Whether there are 300 or 500, we are concerned with their capacity to strike. If they strike, who will it affect? Violence is detrimental to the local Kashmiri and the loss is not of the Indian establishment.”
Firmly denying allegations of torture and of his men telling Kashmiri women that they would now marry them, Rawat said, “Kashmiris are very good at maligning the forces to the media. Our men do not do this. Give me the name of one of my men and I’ll punish that man. We are running goodwill schools and the attendance is better there than in other schools. If we are so bad, why do you come to us?”
Defending the government’s move to nullify Article 370, Rawat said, “The only way to address the alienation was by removing the Article. We want to embrace the Kashmiri by becoming one integrated nation.”
Asked if the battle for the hearts and minds of Kashmiris was being lost, the general said, “Battles are not lost in one month. The government is looking at easing pressure and removing restrictions gradually.”