Interview: Lt Gen. J.S. Sandhu

‘Support base of militants has increased’

Print edition : May 26, 2017

LT GEN. J.S. SANDHU took over as General Officer Commanding of 15 Corps in Srinagar in November 2016 at the time when the Kashmir Valley erupted in an unprecedented crisis. Excerpts from an interview:

How do you see the current situation in Kashmir?

The situation is fragile. It had improved until March, but in April was turbulent, primarily as a fallout of the election and its violent disruption.

Do you think the summer of 2017 is going to be hot as predicted by many?

The summer of 2017 will undoubtedly witness violent incidents, as have taken place. Whether it will be on a large scale, as seen last year, probably it may not be so. There is a latent desire for peace among the people, and widespread agitation may not draw full support.

Has Operation Sadbhavna failed to achieve the desired results? Will recent incidents like the one in which a civilian was tied to the front of an Army jeep help this process?

Operation Sadbhavna has enabled a connect with the awaam. The connect exists with many communities in the Valley and along the LoC and this helps us in managing the situation. We continually improve on delivery of its benefits to the needy, but there are many whose hearts and minds we are yet to touch.

People believe the human shield is an old story.

Human shields, mostly civilians and women, have often been used by terrorists even in other parts of the world. Ideally, it should not happen.

Kashmir is essentially a political problem. What role do you think the Army has to play?

Kashmir is being handled politically. The Army’s role is to counter the armed spoilers [the terrorists] and to assist the administration to contain violence.

The immediate former Commander of the Northern Command, Lt Gen. D.S. Hooda, had asked all parties to step back and move forward in holding talks. Is that the right approach to the situation.

There are various approaches to deal with agitations, unrest and separatism. Talks were resorted to in the past and may possibly take place in future, too, with some stakeholders.

Are you not alarmed that the number of local youths joining the militants is increasing?

The number of militants is not alarming, but their support base has increased, and that is a cause for concern. We are trying to check local youths from joining the tanzeems, with the help of the police and the administration. The trend will stop in due course.

Has infiltration from across the border gone up?

This year some infiltration has occurred, but it is lesser than last year’s. The snow is melting and infiltration attempts will increase hereafter.

Will there be justice in the human shield issue?

Let the inquiry conclude. The arguments and the evidence have to be weighed along with the circumstances.

Shujaat Bukhari

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