Saturday, January 12, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Army chief warns Pak against N-strike
“We are ready for full-scale war”
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 11
The Chief of Army Staff, Gen S. Padmanabhan, today warned Pakistan in no uncertain terms that if they even mistakenly resorted to a nuclear strike or provoked a conventional war against India, “the perpetrators of such an outrage will be punished so severely that their continuation in any fray will be in doubt”.

Addressing his second Press conference as the Chief of Army Staff, Gen Padmanabhan confirmed that troop mobilisation along the borders with Pakistan was complete and assured the country that the Army was fully prepared not only for a full-scale conventional war but also for the second (nuclear) strike.

“If anyone uses nuclear weapons against India, Indian forces, Indian assets at sea, Indian economic or human interests, the perpetrators of that particular outrage will be punished so severely that their continuation in any fray will be in doubt.”

Gen Padmanabhan was also categoric that the Army had explored the possibility of conducting short strikes against terrorist camps across the border and had discussed the option at the highest level. He said the Army was ready for the strikes if the government gave the green signal.

“Yes, we are ready. We are ready for a second strike. I can assure you we have enough (nuclear weapons),” he said adding that India had clearly enunciated in its nuclear policy that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons.

“Pakistan on the other hand, has stated that they will use nuclear weapons first should the necessity arise,” he said.

He, however, said a nation or a national leader would have to take into account the disaster that nuclear weapons can cause before using it as several nations of the world would be involved.

“Nuclear weapons are not meant for fighting. It’s foolish for us to even think of it,” he said.

The Army chief, in his opening remarks, admitted that the situation was not normal as the two countries had mobilised their forces on the borders. He said the movement of the Indian Army this time was not an exercise. “What I am doing now is for real. I have to be ready for war.”

“The situation can comfortably be described as serious,” he said but added that there was no tension in the Indian Army as the force was full of professional confidence and “looking forward” to the events as they unfold.

Asked whether de-escalation would help in lessening tensions between India and Pakistan, he said “I cannot give you the answer I would like to.”

Asserting that India had the capability of launching a second strike if attacked with nuclear weapons, Gen Padmanabhan said it would have to be a Pakistani leader “mad enough” to consider use of such arsenal. “ If he is man enough, correction mad enough... he can use it.”

The General also said a nuclear exchange in the South Asian region would lead to “disaster” affecting western and eastern oil supplies, regions in Central and South East Asia and create a “hue and cry”.

At the same time, he made it clear that India’s policy was not to be the first to use nuclear weapons.

Throughout his hour-long interaction with the media, Gen Padmanabhan attributed the military mobilisation on either side to the situation post-September 11 terrorist attacks in the USA and subsequent build-up by Pakistan and their raising the ante by stepping up terrorist acts against Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and Indian Parliament.

Brushing aside comparisons between the mobilisation to that during the 1965 conflict or the major exercises undertaken by the army like ‘Brasstacks’, the Army chief said ‘Operation Parakaram’, as the build-up is code-named, was a reality.

Asked if a spark could trigger a war given that the armed forces of the two countries were facing each other, Padmanabhan said decisions on war were taken by the government and the political leadership.

He side-stepped questions on the duration of a possible conflict and whether it would be limited to conventional weapons, saying the armed forces were ready for any war of any duration.

He categorised into two parts the terrorist camps in Pakistan — those run by terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad and other much bigger camps run by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), where volunteers and trainers were personnel seconded from the Pakistan army.

“The first category camps are smaller ones which we can reach easily,” he said adding for the bigger camps, he would have to be given a definite time-frame and sophisticated weapons.

On the statement of the Northern Army commander that the current situation was comparable to what existed at the time of the 1965 Indo-Pak war, the Army chief said it is “true” that there was a “scope” of limited conventional war. “It is there.”

He said India had been facing Pakistan-backed proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir for the last 10 to 12 years which also was another “means” of a conflict.

But in 1965, it was a conventional war, he said adding neither side possessed nuclear weapons then.

Asking Pakistan to take much tougher action against terrorism based on its soil, Gen Padmanabhan described the recent detention of some terrorist leaders as “cosmetic”.

“There are still a fairly large number of people in Pakistan who are bent upon fighting for what they say is `jehad’ (holy war)”, he said warning that New Delhi had the wherewithal to strike their camps.

Observing that there had been no no let-up in terrorist violence in J&K, the Army chief said a lot had to be done in restraining them in their home country.

He said while Islamabad had ensured dispersal of terrorists from some training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) to evade U.S. forces, such camps were continuing to impart training to militants.

Describing 2001 as the worst year of violence in J and K, he said the number of terrorists killed in a month had jumped up from an average of 11 to 200 and from June 2001 onward, the army had gunned down 2000 terrorists, of whom 70 per cent were Pakistanis.

To a question whether a conventional war could end the proxy war, Gen Padmanabhan said all possibilities, including on the diplomatic front, would have to be explored.

“To say that there is scope for a limited conventional war is a truism. Yes it is there but it all depends on the circumstances,” he said.

On the build-up across the border, the Army chief said New Delhi had a fair assessment of Pakistani troop concentrations and their aims and thrusts. “We are taking into account all these in our scheme of things”.

He discounted the possibility of India having to face two fronts in the event of a war — one from Pakistan and the other from China — and said Sino-India relations had been set on even keel after the peace and tranquility accord between the two countries.

Stating that relations between New Delhi and Beijing had been further strengthened post-1996 with the formulation of military confidence-building measures, Gen Padmanabhan said “tranquility will be maintained on the Sino-Indian border whatever happened elsewhere”.

On reports of recent large-scale arms shipments by Beijing to Islamabad, he said that these would not reduce in any significant manner the parity enjoyed by the Indian Air Force. The Army chief refused to comment on the status of India’s 2,500 km-range Agni-II ballistic missile saying this was classified information.Back


Thus spake the General

  • On the presence of American troops in Pakistan

“American presence in Pakistan will have an inhibitory impact on India and Pakistan. It will also have an inhibitory impact on the Americans. But when two wild bulls decide to fight in jungles, they carry on regardless.”

  • On troops build-up on the border

“There is no upping the ante. I am a man of peace. But if somebody comes to me with war, the nation will believe that this man can bite.”

  • On the morale of the Indian armed forces

“The morale of the Army is my business. I shall sustain it as high”.

  • On Pakistan using the nuclear option

“If he (Gen Musharraf) is man enough, correction mad enough, he can use it (nukes).


Minister reacts

New Delhi, January 11
Defence Minister George Fernandes today virtually chided Chief of Army Staff Gen S. Padmanabhan for speaking about the nuclear issue, saying the use of nuclear weapons “is far too serious a matter that it should be bandied about in a cavalier manner”.

Referring to comments made by Gen Padmanabhan at a press conference here earlier in the day, he said, “The government has not been talking of nuclear weapons. I wish everyone gives up this talk of nuclear weapons being brought into play”. UNIBack

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