NEW DELHI: India is going for intelligence-backed “targeted kills in (India-held) Kashmir” while militarily dominating the Line of Control with Pakistan, forcing a 30 per cent decline in both ceasefire violations as well as “infiltration bids”, the Indian defence minister has claimed in a newspaper interview.
“The situation is pretty much under control. Our proactive attitude is to identify terrorists and then effectively neutralise them. Every case is handled firmly with clear-cut intelligence for targeted kills, ensuring minimal if any collateral damage,” said Manohar Parrikar in his interview with the Times of India.
The aim is to exploit the differences between militant outfits for both intelligence-gathering as well as surgical strikes, the minister said. “Many terrorists are drawn into terrorism because of financial allurements... they are paid money for it. If such people are there, why not use them? Why should our soldiers be in the front?” asked the straight-talking minister.
About Pakistan’s behaviour, he said “the situation actually depends on how we react to it”, stressing India’s “very firm” response was paying dividends. As per the Indian defence ministry figures, there has been a 32 per cent decline in “Pakistan-initiated ceasefire violations and a decrease of 28 per cent in successful infiltrations” since the Narendra Modi government came to office in May last year.
Defence minister hints at plan to cut army’s ‘non-operational flab’
On the China front, Mr Parrikar made it clear he had imposed just a “temporary freeze” on the ongoing raising of the army’s new Mountain Strike Corps (MSC), which is geared towards acquiring quick-reaction ground offensive capabilities across the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
“It’s downsizing of the plan, not the MSC itself. The previous UPA government arbitrarily approved it without any allocation of funds or proper planning,” he said. “I have put a temporary stop (to the MSC)... it does not mean permanent. The 37,000 troops already inducted need proper infrastructure, arms and equipment, which are currently being drawn from our reserves since the previous government made no arrangements,” he said.
The minister said he would undertake a review of the non-operational flab in the 1.18-million strong army, which would then be slashed to save money. “I will first make financial provisions and then come back to the MSC,” he added.
The raising of the new corps, which began in January 2014, is part of the overall military plan to belatedly counter China’s build-up of trans-border military capabilities and infrastructure all along the 4,057-km LAC.
The army believes that it will not only act as a deterrent against China, but also keep Pakistan off-balance. The logic is to have “requisite deterrence” since China can move over 30 divisions (each with over 15,000 soldiers) to the LAC, outnumbering Indian forces by at least 3:1 there.
With two new infantry divisions geared up for high-altitude warfare as well as armoured, artillery, air defence, engineer brigades spread from Ladakh to Sikkim, the 17 Corps is slated to have its headquarters at Panagarh in West Bengal and be fully in place by 2018-19.
By arrangement with the Times of India
Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2015