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Indian Army free to take decisions in a war-like zone, says Arun Jaitley

LiveMint logoLiveMint 24-05-2017 Shaswati Das

New Delhi: Signalling a hard line on Wednesday, defence minister Arun Jaitley said that the armed forces in Kashmir had been given full authority to conduct operations as they deemed fit against Pakistan’s attempts to abet cross-border terrorism as well as dealing with militancy in the Valley.

“Military solutions are to be provided by military officers, not through the comments of politicians. How a situation is to be dealt with when you are in a war-like zone, we should allow our army officers to take a decision. They don’t have to consult members of Parliament on what they should do under these circumstances,” Jaitley said in response to a question on Kashmir during a briefing on decisions taken by the Union cabinet.

The minister’s remarks come a day after the Indian Army launched punitive fire assaults against the Pakistan Army’s launch-pads along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and hours after the Pakistan Army activated its Forward Operational Bases (FOB) for a combat situation.

Not only are the minister’s remarks signalling a shift to a tougher stance on dealing with insurgency in the valley, it is also reiterating the more muscular approach India has adopted since last September in its dealings with Pakistan.

Tensions between India and Pakistan have run high since a series of high profile attacks on Indian military installations including an army garrison in Uri in September in which 18 Indian soldiers were killed by militants. Ten days later India launched “surgical strikes” there to destroy “terrorist launchpads.”

Pakistan too is gradually escalating its response.

On Wednesday, the official Pakistan defence website issued a statement on Twitter saying, “Pakistan Air Force activates all Forward Operational Bases (FOBs) to test battle preparedness. Pakistan air chief Sohail Aman flew the jet himself in Siachen sector after activating forward attack installations against India (sic). Pakistan Air Force’s response to aggression will be remembered for generations to come, PAF chief shoots a warning at an aggressive India.”

This comes a day after Aman warned India, while conducting Air Force exercises and flying a Mirage fighter jet during his visit to Skardu.

Senior Indian Air Force officials, on condition of anonymity, stated that this muscle-flexing by Pakistan were “nothing but empty threats, with no outcome whatsoever.” While Pakistan had not violated Indian air space along Siachen, Indian Air Force and army officials added that there would be “no hesitation in strictly dealing with such violations, should they occur.”

Last week, Indian Air Force chief B.S. Dhanoa’s communication to the air force had asked them to “be combat ready on very short notice.”

Analysts believe that while a full-blown war was unlikely, low intensity conflicts were a strong possibility between both nations.

“This will be a very volatile summer because we will have several low intensity conflicts along the LoC, whereby the Indian Army will make sure that all anti-India activities by Pakistan are stopped,” said Major Gaurav Arya, a former army officer and defence analyst.

Arya added that the Pakistan Army lacked the punch to carry out a full-scale war.

shaswati.d@livemint.com

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