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Face to Face with Lt Gen (retd) DB Shekatkar: Islam, violence and army reforms

HT spoke to Lt Gen (retd) DB Shekatkar on how these reforms will impact the armed forces, and other issues relating to the defence forces. Following are the edited excerpts of the interview

pune Updated: Sep 04, 2017 18:39 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Yogesh Joshi
Hindustan Times, Pune
DB Shekatkar during a press meet in Pune.(HT Photo)

The Centre this week approved major reforms in the Indian Army to enhance its combat capabilities and rebalance defence expenditure based on the recommendations made by an 11-member committee led by Lt Gen (retd) DB Shekatkar. HT spoke to Shekatkar on how these reforms will impact the armed forces, and other issues relating to the defence forces. Following are the edited excerpts of the interview:

Your panel made a total of 188 recommendations of which the Centre accepted 99 and approved 65 for implementation by 2019-end. What about the recommendations that have not been accepted?

The thrust of the report I submitted was based on futuristic challenges in India, the emerging situation in the world and South Asia. So total of the 188 recommendations were made by the one man committee I headed, The government accepted 65 suggestions. I do hope the remaining recommendations will also be approved by the government soon. There is some resistance from within the armed forces which is understandable. All I am saying is that the government has initiated the process of reforms and that is very important and welcome move.

The next round of Pune Dialogue on National Security (PDNS) will be held later this month. Will reforms in the armed forces be one the topics of discussion?

The PDNS is organized by the Pune International Centre (PIC) and I feel it is a very important discussion. Based on the discussions, certain issues emerge and they should be forwarded to the government so as to help the decision makers to formulate the policy.

Extremist violence and radicalisation of Islam is another issue that has generated a lot of debate and discussion among defence experts. India is among the countries affected by it. How do you think we should tackle this problem?

I have been studying the Quran for 29 years since I have dealt with terrorism for most of my life. Unfortunately, terrorism has been linked to religion and this is very dangerous. Unfortunately, Islam has come under shadow of doubt and it is creating all the problems. Islam in itself has nothing do with violence.

Sometimes one finds strained relations between the military and the civilian population in a city like Pune. How do you look at the issue?

First of all I don’t think that the civil-military relationship is strained. It is the lack of knowledge about each other’s problems. For example, people may say why defence has closed down Cantonment roads and blame the army for being arrogant without understanding what has prompted the Army to take such decision. It is possibly due to the threat of terrorism. If the Army explains it to civilian population and to the media and also provide alternative route to common public, there won’t be discontent. In democracy dialogue is the best thing and that unfortunately hasn’t taken place. As a result we sometimes see tension.

Do you think growing population alongside the Cantonments is reason for growing tension?

What has happened in the past few years is that cities have grown along the Cantonments. There is a need for greate understanding. We are no longer British Army. We are an Indian Army. Therefore we should be able to sustain our own culture. It’s not that efforts are not being taken and these are positive signs which will remove any misunderstanding.

First Published: Sep 04, 2017 17:36 IST

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