Army Commander of the Northern Command, Lieutenant General Upendra Dwivedi, in a recent interview with BharatShakti Editor-in-Chief Nitin A. Gokhale, discussed issues involving the areas that face Pakistan first and then addressed those on the Chinese side. The interview was conducted in the last week of November 2023 at the Northern Command headquarters in Udhampur.
He said the situation in J&K reflects transformational changes that are noteworthy. Foremost amongst them is the public apathy, bordering on hostility, towards terrorists in J&K. The abrogation of Article 370 and subsequent developmental projects is resulting in a swing in public perception favouring the government’s approach.
He talked about the various steps taken by the Indian Army in the hinterland that have brought down recruitment of local boys to the militant outfits, skilling youth and thereby enhancing their employability. Even young people who had left for better opportunities in other states are returning to the Union Territory. He observed that J&K is now like any other normal state or a Union Territory.
The Army has also brought infiltration across the LoC down to zero. It has also neutralised a large number of foreign terrorists. However, Pakistan has over 300 terrorists in their camps as yet. Drones are being used to drop drugs, etc. The Army Commander said that the Army needs to remain vigilant, and there can be no laxity.
Here is a summary of the first part of the interview, including key questions and responses which pertain to valuable insights into the developments in Jammu and Kashmir over the past four years:
Army Commander, Northern Command, Shares Insights on Jammu and Kashmir Developments
- Abrogation of Article 370 and Changes in Jammu and Kashmir
Nitin Gokhale: Starting with the abrogation of Article 370 four years ago, what has happened in Jammu and Kashmir?
Army Commander: The abrogation of Article 370 has been widely accepted by society. People’s mindsets are fundamentally changing, resulting in a substantial 25% reduction in terrorism since 2022. Recruitment of terrorists has decreased significantly from 61 in 2022 to 15 in 2023. Tourism has seen a 35% increase, with 2.35 crores of tourists in the Valley. Amarnath Yatra participation has risen from 3.75 lakh to 4.5 lakh yatris (pilgrims).
- Army’s Role in the Hinterland and Collaboration with Civil Administration
Nitin Gokhale: What is the Army’s main role in the hinterland, and how are you collaborating with the civil administration?
Army Commander: The Army plays a crucial role with strong leadership and reach in the area. There is synergy between civil and military authorities for comprehensive security. Increased infrastructure development and funds infusion have been instrumental in providing more opportunities for youth employment. Skill development schemes, such as PM Kaushal Vikas Yojana and Project Himayat, are pursued vigorously. The recent G20 meeting has boosted investor confidence, resulting in increased investments.
- Pakistan’s Proxy War and Current Status
Nitin Gokhale: Where does Pakistan stand in its attempt to continue the proxy war?
Army Commander: Internal turmoil in Pakistan and the upcoming Indian elections are factors influencing the continuation of hostilities. Despite a high infiltration attempt rate, zero successful infiltrations have been reported. The LOC has witnessed the killing of 43 foreign terrorists, and recruitment of terrorists has significantly decreased. Synergy among stakeholders and the Unified Command Structure are crucial in maintaining control.
- Shift in Strategy from Pakistan
Nitin Gokhale: Is there a shift in strategy from Pakistan, given that terrorist attacks are emanating from the south of Pir Panjal?
Army Commander: Pakistan finds peace and prosperity in the region unacceptable. Efforts to revive terrorism and create disturbances in the area have been observed on their part. There is a major reorientation of Rashtriya Rifles towards the hinterland and a focus on neutralising foreign terrorists, some trained in Afghanistan.
- Assessment of Pakistan-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK)
Nitin Gokhale: What is your assessment of POJK?
Army Commander: The situation in POJK is not encouraging, with voices of dissent and desperation in Gilgit Baltistan increasing. China’s environmental degradation for construction projects has led to resentment among the local population.
- Zero Infiltration and Security Measures:
Nitin Gokhale: Can you share information on zero infiltration, terrorists waiting to be sent across, and active launch pads along the Western border?
Army Commander: Local support for terrorists is negligible. Approximately 300 terrorists are active in 10-12 launch pads along the Western border. Drones are extensively used for dropping warlike stores and developing a drug culture, which means drugs become the mode of payment.
In a significant development, it has been observed that the Pakistani Army is actively involved in training terrorists. Additionally, these terrorists have equipped themselves with highly advanced and sophisticated communication tools, indicating an increased level of technological prowess.
To counteract this evolving threat landscape, the Indian Army has shifted its operational approach to a proactive ‘Seek and Destroy’ mode. This strategy involves actively seeking out terrorists and neutralizing them before they have the chance to carry out attacks. While acknowledging that this approach comes with a high degree of risk and an elevated casualty rate, the prevailing sentiment is that this proactive strategy has proven more effective than reacting after an attack. The shift in tactics underscores the dynamic nature of counter-terrorism efforts in the region.
Watch the full interview on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJWKiLA15yc
Note: Part II of the interview covering the Northern Commands operational and logistics issues along the Line of Actual Control opposite the Chinese, will follow.