Kashmir different from AFG, talks only on govt's terms: Army Chief

TNN Bureau. Updated: 1/11/2019 11:28:36 AM Front Page

‘Shun violence for any engagement; Army only facilitator for peace’

JAMMU: A day after supporting talks with Taliban, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat on Thursday sought to justify his stand of not holding talks with "all stakeholders" in Kashmir, saying the situation in Afghanistan was different from that in the Valley, asserting that talks and terror cannot go together and that any engagement with militant groups in the state will be strictly on the basis of conditions set by the government.

Emphasising that the Army was not out there in Kashmir "just to kill" but to bring peace, the Army Chief also said that Pakistan's hostilities towards India along the border in J&K have not come down after Imran Khan came to power, adding the Pakistani leader was only talking about peace and not doing anything to improve the situation on the ground.

Gen Rawat, addressing a press conference in New Delhi ahead of Army Day on January 15, also said over 300 terrorists are waiting along the border in Kashmir to infiltrate, but added his forces are ready to foil their attempts.

Referring to a number of countries engaging in talks with Taliban, the Army Chief said India should not be out of the bandwagon as it has "interests" in Afghanistan.

"Same analogy cannot be applied to J&K. It is a bilateral issue between us and our western neighbour. There is no place for any third party intervention. Here if we have to talk, we have to talk based on our terms and conditions," said Gen Rawat in his annual press conference.

In his address at the Raisina Dialogue on Wednesday, Gen. Rawat backed dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"It is not one size fix all. You have to see your national interests, where you have different national interests, you take a different line," he added today.

The Army Chief was asked about his comments on Wednesday backing talks with Taliban and whether he would support engaging Hurriyat Conference and other separatist groups in Kashmir.

"We are saying talks and terror cannot happen together. It is not only just applicable to our western neighbour, it is applicable to Jammu and Kashmir also. You cannot keep killing security personnel and say we are ready for talks," said the Army Chief.

"Here, it is our people, our nation who are being swayed by our national adversary. It is high time they take a call. And not at the behest of someone who is forcing them into violence. Talks can only when happen they give up violence.

"Can somebody give us a guarantee that our convoys would not be attacked, our boys wont be abducted, attacked and people going on leave won't be killed? If that kind of guarantee is given, we are willing to go into talks with them," he said.

Replying to the general criticism of Army conducting operations in the Valley and applying too much pressure, the General emphasised that the Army was not out there "just to kill" but to bring peace.
"The government is adopting a hard and soft power approach in dealing with Kashmir...We are only facilitators for peace in J&K," he said.

The Army Chief also said success in Jammu and Kashmir should not be measured by number of terrorists being killed and that people of the state were beginning to understand that violence was not the way forward.

He said of local youths joining terrorism in Kashmir was linked to intensity of propaganda and was not related to killing of terrorists by security forces.

He said funeral processions of terrorists and conferring martyr status to them by Tanjims had encouraged youths to join the groups, adding the Army has limited the processions which has shown positive results.

"We have now started curtailing these (funeral processions). The now of people allowed to join the funeral processions have started gradually coming down. We are trying to control the crowd," he said.

The Army Chief said people of Jammu and Kashmir were beginning to realise the futility of violence.

He said that the mix of hard and soft approach of the Army was working well in Kashmir and a number of youth were returning to the mainstream, many of them quietly for fear of persecution from the "tanzeems" (organisations).

"Youths in Kashmir are immensely terrorised by terror groups and Tanjims," he said.

Asked for his views on IAS officer Shah Faesal, a Kashmiri doctor who topped the civil services in 2010, resigning from the service "to protest the killings in Kashmir", the Army chief said: "If he has resigned to go to the youth and tell them that taking to the gun is not fine, then it's a good thing."

"Let's see what he has resigned for. He has resigned because he feels that people are being killed or because a large number of people are taking to guns and then getting killed," General Rawat added.

He said that Faesal needed to work on the society to tell them that they "should not fall for this false propaganda" and cite his own example of how he "became a Class I officer in this same state (India)" and that there is no discrimination.

He also said that the Army has managed the situation well along the borders with China and Pakistan and there should be no cause for concern.

"We have managed the situation well along the northern and western borders," Gen Rawat said, adding that there should be no cause for concern.

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