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'Odd military strike not enough to change Pakistan'

April 26, 2019 09:55 IST

'Past experience shows us that cross-border strikes have not prevented Pakistan from continuing with further terror attacks.'

Indian Air Force aircraft

Lieutenant General D S Hooda was the army commander under whose command Indian soldiers conducted the surgical strikes across the Line of Control on September 28-29, 2016.

As the highest ranking officer in the Northern Command, General Hooda was responsible for the planning and execution of the top secret successful operation.

After serving nearly 40 years in the Indian Army, the officer retired a couple of months after the successful surgical strikes operation.

In February 2019, he joined a task force set up by the Congress to prepare a national security vision for the country. The report was prepared in consultation with retired army and police officers. It was submitted to the Congress this week and was made public.

"Limited military action is part of an overall strategy to deal with Pakistan and pressurise it to not support terror activities," General Hooda tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih.

Your report on national security prepared for the Congress said India must be ready for limited unilateral military action against Pakistan.
India did respond to the Uri/Pulwama attacks, so what are the other Pakistani provocations that would require such military action?

Let me put it in context, an odd military cross-border strike is not going to be sufficient to change Pakistan's behaviour.

I say that because Pakistan always tends to play down any military strike by us.

They don't want to accept that the Indian armed forces have come across the border that is defended by the Pakistan army.

In 2016, they negated the strike and said it did not happen at all. Similarly with the air strikes, they said, 'yes, we breached their air space but no damage was caused'.

They have this tendency of downplaying these strikes.

Past experience shows us that cross-border strikes have not prevented Pakistan from continuing with further terror attacks.

I had said in the report that we need a consistent and long term strategy which combines economic pressure, diplomacy, international isolation -- and when required we should also not rule out military action.

This limited military action is part of an overall strategy to deal with Pakistan and pressurise it to not support terror activities.

We should use all organs of power -- economic, diplomatic, political, military -- and also not rule out limited military strikes.

 

What are the salient points that the next government needs to keep in mind in dealing with Pakistan?

One, have a strategy to deal with Pakistan and see how you can prevent, desist or pressurise Pakistan from supporting cross-border terror activities.

I have also said that we should not rule out dialogue with Pakistan, but the dialogue must be structured and based on visible results.

For example, the dialogue between (then prime minister) Manmohan Singh and (then Pakistani military dictator General) Pervez Musharraf, where cross-border confidence building measures took place.

In this case, the ball is clearly in Pakistan's court.

They need a rethinking on their continuing support to terror activities, deep-rooted hostility against India -- and seeing their own political and economic weaknesses, they need to consider a change in their approach to India.

How do you think such an engagement is even possible when relations between the two countries have hit such a low after Pulwama and Balakot?

It requires statesmanship on both sides and the understanding that this is the best way relations can be pursued between India and Pakistan.

The environment and public perception also sometimes drive government policies, but I think statesmanship on both sides will help.

When it comes to international relations one has to look at hard logic and how one wants to take things forward in the future. You can't completely be driven only by sentiment.

What can the next government do to soothe tempers in Kashmir, prevent radicalisation and Pulwama kind of attacks?

Preventing Pulwama type of attacks is the measure of intelligence, counter terrorist operations, taking out key terrorist leaderships.

To expect that terrorists will stop their activities is not going to happen. After Pulwama they tried once more, but fortunately nothing happened.

If you are looking at a resolution to the conflict you require a much more holistic approach where you look at the root causes, what it is driving the sense of alienation and how are you going to counter the narrative that is going on in Kashmir -- how you are going to put in place counter radicalisation or de-radicalisation programmes.

I have also suggested that we have an effective surrender policy and get back some of the local youth into the mainstream. That will have a positive effect.

There is a divide between Jammu and Kashmir region -- can civil society and the government step in to start some kind of a dialogue where people can sit together and talk to each other?

An honourable solution for the displaced Kashmiri Pandits who have been driven out of the valley must be found.

A large number of steps need to be taken and requires effective communication. What is the message the government is sending to the people of Kashmir?

Measures like road closures sends a negative signal.

As a soldier, what are your thoughts on the use of soldiers in the political rhetoric like 'Modi ki Sena' and asking first time voters to vote for the Pulwama martyr?

It's not only me, but many have said that the armed forces have been apolitical since Independence. The military has served the nation well.

Drawing in the military to win political arguments is highly avoidable. I am not saying the army is going to get completely politicised, but it is best kept out of politics.

If the military is seen to be taking sides, its own professionalism is going to be hampered. This is what political leaders on all sides need to understand that ultimately by doing this they are only going to damage the military itself.

What are your thoughts on the supersession for the chief of naval staff's appointment? What message does supersession send to the armed forces?

We have to understand that it is the government's prerogative to choose the senior leadership. It is not as if supersessions are only happening now and haven't happened in the past.

The government must have had some good reason to supersede a senior officer. Ultimately, on the supersession issue, it is the authority of the government and I think we should not question that.

Lt Gen Hooda with Rahul Gandhi

IMAGE: General Hooda with Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

You conducted the surgical strikes under Prime Minister Modi, what attracted you to the Congress? I know you have not joined the party, but headed their national security task force.

They requested me if I could prepare a report on national security strategy for them. I thought it was work that was required. We have often said India doesn't have a formal written down national security strategy and a formal direction that we need to pursue.

I thought it was in the national interest. They promised me they would put it out in the public domain and they have.

They have also said they accept some of the points -- for a political party to have a national security policy is itself a big step.

It was nothing to do with political ideology, but something that was required and in the national interest.

If the BJP had asked you to help with your expertise in any way, would you have considered that?

The ministry of defence asked me to prepare a paper on restructuring and the right sizing of the Indian Army which also I worked on and gave them.

What would be the immediate measures to counter radicalisation in Kashmir?

You need structures and policies, and a de-radicalisation programme. What are the themes of that programme, who are the people you are going to engage with -- clerics, local police, civil society.

Many youngsters engaged in stone pelting are arrested, go into jails, there are no major charges against them so they are released after a few months. But in jail they meet hardcore terrorists and sometimes there is the feeling that they are actually more radicalised than when they went into prison.

Surrendered terrorists is one group that can be co-opted into de-radicalisation programmes. They are a powerful tool because they have seen the other side.

These kind of programmes are completely absent, once they start, you can start countering radicalisation.

Archana Masih / Rediff.com
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