|Tuesday, August 22, 2000,
Don’t use Army for internal security,
NEW DELHI: General Ved Prakash Malik, who bows out as the Chief of the Army Staff on September 30, has expressed deep concern on critical national issues of internal security, intelligence gathering, coordination, the response system, the place of servicemen in the defence setup and the grim challenge posed by Pakistan's proxy war.
I met the General at Army House (his official residence) here the other day to get an insight into the post-Kargil scenario and share the perception of the person who led the Army during the crucial Operation Vijay in the difficult mountainous terrain.
With the success of the Kargil operation behind him, he talks with a feeling. The Kargil experience has added richness to his long career in the Army. He started as a foot soldier, was commissioned in the Sikh Light Infantry in 1959, joined the 8th Mountain Division in the North-East and later in Jammu and Kashmir. Subsequently, he became the head of XI Corps at Jalandhar during Punjab's militancy days. He talks with confidence and makes his points candidly and authoritatively. All the same, he is cautious and careful and speaks in a measured tone while discussing sensitive issues.
"One major area of concern is internal security and external elements represented by Pakistan and others who are interested in weakening us", General Malik says and adds that they are only "exploiting the differences that we have on account of ethnicity, caste, community, and even corruption". To tackle this complex problem, he emphatically stresses the urgency of evolving "greater understanding and consensus" at all political levels.
"It is not that somebody is threatening us on the borders but it is this internal weakness that makes us vulnerable on security," he opines.
The General is totally opposed to the use of the Army for handling internal security matters. "Why should people talk of calling the Army to deal with Veerappan or any other law and order problem? This is extremely damaging. This tendency must be stopped", he asserts.
"The Army fights its battles with national support. So if you make one mistake somewhere, you will be alienating people in that area," he says and underlines the need for keeping the Army away from undesirable responsibilities so that it can address itself primarily to the national task expected of it.
Talking about the proxy war, General Malik says Kashmir is basically on the Pakistani military agenda. "It has to keep the problem going to justify the rationale for the status and position it has acquired in the political and economic life of Pakistan."
Besides, the ISI, unlike other such agencies in different countries, is very much a "part and parcel" of the Pakistan Army. "It is much more pronounced today than was the case yesterday".
"Army officers go to the ISI for two to three years and then they get back to their regiments. So, the command and control of the ISI is in the hands of the Pakistani military," he points out and adds that "if the Army is working on a particular objective, they (ISI men) will apply everything they have to achieve the target".
He feels that "we tend to give the ISI more credit not because of its efficiency but mainly because of our problems and weaknesses", which makes us susceptible to its sinister operations.
The Army chief thinks the present upsurge in Kashmir is "temporary".
"I am sure the message would have gone home to the people of J&K that unka (Government of India's) dil saaf hai. They are prepared to talk. So we have prevented the alienation of the people. I would say that we have perhaps been able to show to the people our genuine desire to bring about peace and tranquillity in the state. This is a plus point in our favour".
"It will also be clear to the population of J&K that all these groups (foreign mercenaries and other terrorists) are stooges of the other side, that is Pakistan. They are merely concerned about the direction coming from Pakistan and otherwise there is no reason for them to say Pakistan ko shamil karo", he declares.
The General is opposed to the suggestion coming from certain quarters to hand over the charge of the Rashtriya Rifles to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
The Rashtriya Rifles was formed for low intensity conflicts, to deal with the proxy war. Now some people are talking in terms of putting it under the MHA. My God! This way you are going to finish off the Army. They work under a unified command. They take orders from the formation commanders. They (the Rashtriya Rifles) are 100 per cent Army. If they are placed under the state armed police or other agencies like the CRPF and the BSF, there will be problems."
Another major area of concern for General Malik is the lack of coordination among intelligence agencies.
"Our intelligence agencies tend to give you a very general sort of a thing — ki udhar khatra hai, udhar yeh ho sakta hai — but actionable intelligence does not come forth. Actionable intelligence can come from the local police and the local people", he remarks and expresses satisfaction at the "slight improvement" in this area.
The General agrees with the assessment that with the kind of proxy war being waged from across the border, the chances of a war today "are much more than they were 10 or five years ago". He, however, thinks that the nuclear factor stands neutralised today. But the danger lies in the fact that in Pakistan's case, the nuclear button is with one man.
"In our case the situation is quite different and our policy is very clear," he says and hopes that "they (Pakistani Generals) will not be so stupid" as to press the button. He rules out the possibility of China fighting a war for Pakistan.
Dwelling at length on the question of security and development, the General makes three points. First, domestic policies must take care of the problems of the people concerned. "You cannot afford to alienate people on meeting their basic needs. The state government and the Centre should take care."
Second, for fighting militancy along the LoC and inside, you have to make the people "more effective", apart from ensuring better intelligence and better coordination.
Third, at world fora "Pakistan must get a message that you cannot go on bleeding us". And the international community must be made to realise that "this terrorist state business is not doing any good to the world". So we must win over the international community. This is a matter of foreign policy.
Talking of his favourite theme of effectively involving the Services in the decision-making mechanism of the Ministry of Defence, General Malik says this reform "is necessary for three reasons —first, to ensure better understanding and appreciation of the security situation; second, for a better and coordinated response system; and, third, for the reason of cost effectiveness".
"Today between the minister and the General, there is a bureaucrat. I have no problem in speaking to the latter. But, ultimately, whatever I write or do, the minister gets the processing done by them (bureaucrats) and I may not even know what exactly has come out of my suggestion or proposal."
The General's opinion on other major areas of concern are given below:
Consensus: You have to have consensus on important issues of national security.
Modernisation: We have identified our requirements. Some were already identified. In some cases I would say there has been improvement. Clothing, yes, ammunition, yes. There are some areas where equipment has been contracted but it is still awaited. They will start coming shortly. As a soldier, I am concerned that even now the urgency of the whole situation is not being realised. I feel that some of the things should be done quickly. Wo kehte hein sab, but hamara procedure koi change nahin hua hai. Paise ki koi kamee nahin hai, mujhe nazar aa rahi. I find money is there.
Surveillance: We have to revamp our intelligence setup. That's very important. Better flow of information, literally upwards, and better collation, analysis and assessment. We also have to upgrade our surveillance system. Abhi bhai surveillance jo hai usko thoda aur improve karne kee zarurat hai.
Strength matters: I believe you will never be able to talk unless Pakistan knows your strength. Diplomacy alone will not succeed.
Security & development: There is a symbiotic relationship between defence security and development. The Prime Minister has rightly stressed this point. Security enables your development. Without security you cannot develop. Who will come with funds from abroad? Similarly, when you have development and your per capita income goes up, you will have better security.
Judiciary: One major problem is of the judiciary. People have talked about special courts, and about TADA. I am not going into the legalities. But the fact of the situation today is that you have not been able to convict terrorists. Some of them just get away. We know what the problem is. But what message are we sending?
Tribunal: We have given certain specific proposals on the structure and composition of the proposed tribunal to handle the cases of Services personnel. It should be headed either by a retired Supreme Court judge or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court.
I have conveyed my views to the ministry. I do not know what it will decide since they do not have to share their views with me. So, there is lack of faith and confidence.
Quality of life: By and large, we have done really well. There is a desire to have better communication and take care of our soldiers. I am more than satisfied. The izzat of the soldier is vital. I think the soldier is respected more today because of the Kargil success.
Brigadier, Colonel die in mine blast BARAMULA, Aug 21 (UNI) — A Brigadier was among two senior Army officers killed in a powerful mine explosion set off by militants at Rajwara Handwara in north Kashmir this evening. Three other Armymen were injured, officials said. Brigadier B.S. Shergill and Commanding Officer Rajinder Chauhan were killed instantly when their vehicle was blown up by an improvised explosive device about 30 km from here. The attack was carried out when a convoy of senior Army officers was passing through. The vehicle carrying the two officers bore the impact of the explosion. The area was immediately cordoned off and a hunt was launched for the militants.
BARAMULA, Aug 21 (UNI) — A Brigadier was among two senior Army officers killed in a powerful mine explosion set off by militants at Rajwara Handwara in north Kashmir this evening. Three other Armymen were injured, officials said.
Brigadier B.S. Shergill and Commanding Officer Rajinder Chauhan were killed instantly when their vehicle was blown up by an improvised explosive device about 30 km from here. The attack was carried out when a convoy of senior Army officers was passing through. The vehicle carrying the two officers bore the impact of the explosion. The area was immediately cordoned off and a hunt was launched for the militants.
Militants have on several occasions in the past struck with impunity in similar fashion. Earlier in May, State Power Minister Ghulam Hassan Bhat was assassinated when his car hit a landmine. Police suspect that on that occasion too, militants had blown up the Minister's car through a remote-controlled device.
Immediately after the incident, several Army columns fanned out in the area and launched a manhunt for the culprits. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the killing of the two senior Army officers. In another incident, three soldiers were killed and 15 others critically wounded when militants fired rockets at an Army transit camp at Banihal, about 100 kms south of Srinagar.
The attack took place around noon. Two rockets hit the transit camp, blowing off a portion of the camp. The three soldiers died on the spot. The militants attacked the camp from the western side. "The rockets might have been fired by the militants perched on a hilltop", an Army officer said.
The camp building presented a sight of burnt bodies and scattered debris, reports reaching here from Banihal said. Several columns of the Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police immediately launched a hunt for the militants.
|| Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
| Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
| 120 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |