The home ministry has decided not to formally spell out any rules of engagement for the Army troops who will begin their training in the Narayanpur area of Chhattisgarh from the first week of March.
Sources in the Chhattisgarh government and the Union home ministry said the Army had asked for clarifications from the state government on what its response should be to "unforeseen" situations.
The request had been made after the Army decided to send two brigades (6,000 troops) from the its Central Command for training and jungle manoeuvres in the largely unadministered Abujmarh jungles located at the tri-junction of Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.
The Army mainly wanted to know from the state government what its stand would be when the Army retaliates if its troops are attacked by Maoists cadres who have bases in close proximity to the areas where the Army is planning to conduct its basic infantry training.
Army Chief Gen VK Singh, in a recent interview, had said that troops will fire back if fired upon but had also emphasised that the Army would not be launching any proactive operations against the Maoists.
Now, the home ministry has told both the Army HQ and the Chhattisgarh government that there was no need to spell out "'rules of engagement" for the Army troops in Chhattisgarh since they are not being deployed for any operations.
Army sources say that first of the six battalions, earmarked to train in Chhattisgarh, will start moving into the area by the first week of March.
The Chhattisgarh government had agreed to provide the army an area of about 800 sq km for training. Three main conditions have been agreed upon by the two sides. They are:
- Army will not build any permanent structure in the area
- Army will not cut trees
- Army will not displace people
Security sources say it will be interesting to observe the reaction of the Maoists once the Army's begins its movement in the area. Will the cadres keep away from the Army? Or will some local Maoist commander decide to attack the troops to provoke the Army into a conflict?
These are some of the questions that are at the top of the decision-makers' mind both in South and North Block.