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Need to work together to save youth from scourge of terrorism, violence: GoC Pandey

Have evolved strategies to deal with hybrid terrorism

Post by on Sunday, May 8, 2022

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Kashmir remains in the news for many reasons, the major being tackling militancy and security situation. To understand the current security situation, efforts for return of peace and normalcy, Rising Kashmir’s Security and Defense Correspondent, Irfan Yattoo, had an exclusive chat with GoC Chinar Corps Lt General, D P Pandey.

During the interview, the GoC elaborated on the valley situation, ceasefire violation along the line of control (LoC), anti-terror operations, social media propaganda and challenges for security forces.

 

What is the current security situation in Kashmir?

The security situation in the hinterland and on the LoC has shown significant improvement over the past few years. Post abrogation of Article 370 and the prevailing ceasefire at LoC, all the parameters of peace and prosperity are good.

The tourism industry is booming in Kashmir after a lull owing to terrorist activities and restrictions due to COVID-19. With the return of normalcy in Kashmir, a glimmer of hope has emerged on the horizon for Kashmir's tourism sector.

The hope has soon turned into a bonanza, with the tourist footfall steadily rising. As per Jammu and Kashmir government officials, over five lakh tourists visited Kashmir during winter months and lakhs are expected in the coming summer season. To put into perspective, 100 flights carrying approximately 15000 tourists came on a single day on Mar 28, 2022.

The officials have plans for organising various festivals for this year’s summer. High end tourists visiting valley and jam packed hotels in itself speak volumes about the status of the situation in Valley. As an indicator of a new normal which we all are witnessing, I am sure the locals and the tourism industry are reaping the fruits of it.

We have also good success in counter terror operations. One of the biggest enablers for security force in effective counter terror operations has been improved HUMINT ((abbreviation for human intelligence). This has enabled surgical operations with minimum collateral damage. The law and order situation has improved, though it is still ‘a work in progress.’

The scattered incidents of unrest continue here and there only due to a few radicals and the nexus in the name of religion and victimhood.

However, the good thing is that the people in the Valley have understood the agenda of conflict entrepreneurs where people running it want the state of conflict to continue. The change is bound to happen and is happening at a fast pace.

 

On Feb 26 this year, ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan completed one year. How do you see this development, keeping LoC in mind?

The February ceasefire was necessitated by the situations which Pakistan has created for itself. They were under immense international pressure along with stringent media and FATF watch etc.

The situation on their western border was spiraling out of their hands. They were unable to handle their internal issues and coupled with severe economic crisis, they were bound to seek peace on the LoC.

The advantage of this ceasefire has benefitted the people living on either side of the LoC. There is freedom of movement for the people who are living a normal life nowadays. Besides, children there are regularly attending their schools and other educational institutes. Infrastructure development works are also in full swing along with other developmental works.

We must also keep in mind that Pakistan’s real intent and public statements have a huge gap. We saw that even after the ceasefire understanding last year, on one side a ceasefire was sought by Pakistan to which we agreed. Yet at the same time, the propaganda machines of the Pakistani state continued their work as before.

We in Kashmir look at real tangibles in terms of actions Pakistan takes with respect to ceasefire before we start believing that there is change of their heart or their intent. Till then we shall remain alert and committed to the security of the LoC and the hinterland.

 

We are seeing maximum anti-terrorist operations as clean operations, without facing collateral damage. How has this change happened?

We have had some great success in counter terror operations in recent past. One of the biggest reasons for the effective counter terror operations have been improved HUMINT (abbreviation for human intelligence). This has enabled surgical operations with minimum or no collateral damage. As such clean and ethical operations are the basic ethos of Indian Army. The law and order situation has also improved.

In terms of terrorist attacks, the numbers are extremely low except for the month of Oct 2021 when the numbers jumped due to the targeted killings of innocent civilians and few minorities. The proactive and joint efforts of Indian Army, JKP, CAPFs and other agencies have borne fruit, with no collateral damage in terms of loss of life of innocent civilians.

 

Hybrid terrorists are being used to carry out grenade attacks, pistol attacks. Is it a new security challenge?

The hybrid terrorists are of course latest trend in propagating terror in the Valley nowadays. However, we immediately evolved the strategies to deal with them. After spike of their activities in October 2021, we closely monitored their pattern and modus operandi, which helped us in the elimination of a good number of such hybrid terrorists in the recent past.

It is an important aspect to understand that the “management of terrorist numbers” is always the part of the strategy of the nexus which is running locally with hand in glove along with their Pakistan associates.

Both keep evolving new plans and systems by adapting to our changing strategy of targeting terrorist leadership and the terrorist. The current strategy of this nexus is to get terrorists who are low key, may be trained on basic weapons and quiet on the hybrid mode without announcing their recruitment as a terrorist to keep them below the radar of security forces.

These hybrid terrorists are akin to petty criminals who carry out killings to terrorize people on behalf of nexus.

Secondly, there is a major shift in the process of recruitment by the nexus because of which they have started targeting teenagers and young men who could be brainwashed easily on the lines of religion, azadi  and victimhood.

These hybrid terrorists lie low and carry out their daily routine life as a normal regular citizen as students, worker in orchards, shopkeepers, service class etc. They get activated only when they are provided with a weapon and a target to assassinate. Later on, once he is neutralized by the security forces; everyone claims that he was not a terrorist as he had never openly announced his recruitment.

 

What is difference between OGWs, and white-collar terrorists?

These white-collar terrorists are the terrorist factories. Their agenda is to widen the rift and misguide Kashmiri youth. They are white collar because they play in the grey zone while living a normal citizen life but concurrently aid and enables terror acts. It is therefore important to identify these people and expose them to society.

 

Apart from eliminating terrorists, there has been surge in OGW numbers. How do you see this situation?

Proxies are the easiest and safest way of terror strategy adopted by Pakistan to disturb law and order in the valley. With local recruitments, big terror hubs do not have to send terrorists or take the risk of infiltration nor do they require the supply of heavy weaponry or intense training.

These proxies work with the misguided local Kashmiri youth, use basic weapons such as pistols, and require less, no risk of infiltration. With online training sessions under the guidance of district commander, they prepare these naïve young boys for attacks. It is therefore important to identify hardcore over ground workers (OGW) and terrorist supporters for the reduction in terror acts and recruitment.

 

Observers say social media is being used as a propaganda tool to divert youth. How are top brass looking at it?

We cannot compartmentalize our life. Social media is the new normal. Therefore, we have to cope up with any kind of its misuse. We need to have the know-how of these new-age technologies.

I have always believed that we as the representative of the state have been little slow to adapt to new technologies and media formats. We still have a long way to go. Social media has changed the methods of sharing information in humanity. The radicals have been the first to exploit it to spread radical thoughts and use it for terror-related activities.

At a global level, we saw ISIS using social media in 2014 to disastrous impact. In J&K also, we saw similar deliberate well-orchestrated radicalization techniques used.

It’s very important that we keep on educating the society regarding the fake news and Pakistani propaganda aspects which is very well organised towards misguiding and misleading the youth in particular.

It is possible and can be achieved only by gearing up our education system and utilising its full potential. It is the moral responsibility of the society itself that our children and youth do not get carried away by these fake news and propaganda.

We in the Indian Army talk of only facts and truth. We come out with strong rebuttals of all the fake news.

I would like to send a message to all the citizens through your medium that they should be aware regarding the nefarious tactics of instigators, ideologues and OGWs who use old events, pictures, videos and even fake contents of places outside Kashmir to create chaos and confusion to influence the minds. All these social media handlers are themselves either sitting abroad or in comfortable places.

We are clear that we have to counter an organized Pakistani effort both in the kinetic and information battle space. We are winning both since in kinetic-we are stronger and in information space – truth is on our side.

On one side infiltration has declined while narco terrorism and drone activities are increasing. Is there any specific reason behind it?

Terrorists are now using drones to move weapons. With the coming of high-end drones that are capable of delivering very heavy payloads, without actually coming on ground, makes it a more preferred method to drop weapon and narco products instead of physically transporting it across the border (LoC). This threat is real and we are taking appropriate measures to deal with it.

 

What are the challenges for security forces in 2022?

Kashmir has witnessed relative stability and normalcy after a long time. Despite the pandemic, 2022 has been a good year. The only people unhappy with the changed environment are Pakistan affiliates.

There has been a drastic decline in infiltration, stone-pelting incidents and shutdowns, as the terrorists are looking at different ways to disrupt peace. We are witnessing new normal in Kashmir where the tourism industry is booming, and all the parameters of violence are showing the return of normalcy.

However, we need to be cautious regarding the hybrid terrorist which is the new format adopted by the ‘White Collar Terrorists’ and their Pakistan affiliates.

The state and society have to work together to counter this threat and save our youth from scourge of terrorism and path of violence.

 

Has Operation Sadbhavana been successful? Share its achievements?

The aim of operation Sadbhavana was to provide assistance to citizens living in far flung areas of J&K who were terrorized by the terrorists so that they could lead a normal life and engage in overall development of the society.

It has a major component of education besides, imparting various skill trainings, sports and cultural activities and medical assistance. All these played a major role during the entire spectrum of COVID.

When Sadbhavana started in the late 90s, these developmental projects faced many challenges and hence a few infrastructure projects based on the needs of the common man were executed. The Army Goodwill schools were also a flagship effort at that time to fill the gap created by burning and closing of schools by the terror groups.

With latest development after abrogation of Article 370, the situation is vastly different and the state administration is fully effective across J&K and good work is visible.

In education alone, we have 27 schools. In addition to this we have CSR based initiatives like the Super 50 (Engineering) and Super 30 (Medical) coaching programs, which have been highly successful and popular, and have given spectacular results empower to youth and their families in competing with bright students across the country and to gain admission in entrance exams of IITs and AIIMS.

Considering the importance and need, we have added 20 vacancies for girl students for NEET preparation which has addressed the gender gap in opportunities to some extent.

There have been signature events like Kashmir Premier League in cricket, 65 km cycling event for women in Baramulla, the Artificial Limb project by Jaipur Foot foundation that has helped scores of Kashmiris, besides many other regular activities.

The most heartening is the display of exuberance of the Valley youth in the cultural and sports activities in all parts of J&K including the so called terror hubs.

The youth here want a break from the gloom that the radicals want to enforce on them and Sadbhavana activities help them in breaking that diktat.

Many centers are accredited with Nation Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). We are always on the lookout for new opportunities for such engagements, ideas from the civil society help us in doing Sadbhavana activities better.

 

What is your message for the youth of Kashmir?

In this modern age and time, my advice, rather request to Kashmiri youth would be to understand this false narrative of victimhood which is so easy to fathom - and why it needs to change.

Only mature societies can bring lasting change and youth need to take lead. They have to shake off the gloom and embrace laughter and happiness and build a tradition of celebrating success in any field, celebrate a good tourist season and a good harvest. Some recent successes in this effort have been encouraging, we hope for more successes in future.

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