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Onus of ‘building bridges’ with India is on Pakistan: Army chief

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Srinagar: Making it clear that the onus of “building bridges” with India is on Pakistan, Army Chief General M M Naravane on Thursday said while the ceasefire continues, steps such as putting a stop to infiltration will help in building trust between the two countries.

He said the longevity of the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan depends on the actions of the neighbouring country but asserted that there would be “no slackening” of preparedness as militant infrastructure across the border was intact.

The army chief was talking to a select group of journalists after his two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir.

In reply to a question about the ceasefire, agreed by India and Pakistan in February, he said, “As you know we had entered into an understanding with Pakistan at the end of February to observe a ceasefire along the LoC. The ceasefire as of now is holding and the responsibility or I may say the onus of making sure that the ceasefire holds is squarely on Pakistan. We are willing to observe the ceasefire as long as they do so.”

However, the Army chief pointed out that while the ceasefire is on, the “terror infrastructure and presence of terrorists” on the other side of the LoC continue.

“And therefore, there can be no slackening as far as we are concerned in our levels of preparedness and alertness,” he made it clear.

Asked if Islamabad can be trusted as the ceasefire has been holding for 100 days now, Gen Naravane said, “There have been decades of mistrust between India and Pakistan. So, the situation on that score cannot change overnight.”

He said if Pakistan observes ceasefire in letter and spirit, the small steps can lead to incremental gains.

“If Pakistan continues to desist from fomenting trouble in India, then the small steps can lead to that level of trust that you are talking about,” he added.

On the possibility of troops reduction in Kashmir, he said the deployment of the troops was a dynamic process and is reviewed from time to time depending on threat perception.

“We have a counter-infiltration grid to prevent terrorists from coming in and we have a counter terrorism grid in the hinterland. The deployment is a dynamic process. If there is improvement in the situation, some troops are pulled from active duty so that they also get rest, but they are not pulled out completely,” Gen Naravane said.

He said the entire country was working to bring peace and tranquility not only in Jammu and Kashmir but across India. He said the job of the army was to bring down violence to the level where civil administration and local security forces can play their role for ensuring development in the region.

The Army chief said Covid was another kind of a war which the entire country is fighting. And it was the responsibility of the armed forces to help the people to overcome the pandemic, he added.

“I don’t think there is any family which has not been affected by Covid. Therefore it is our responsibility to help the people. We have not left any stone unturned in this hour of need. Not only in metros we have helped local administration in other parts in setting up additional beds, repairing oxygen plants and in some cases pulled out our medical staff from less affected areas and deployed them to more high pressure areas,” he said.

He expressed satisfaction that the number of Covid cases was coming down in the country and India was on its way to beating down the second wave.

“As a result of the facilities we have set up in the past month and half, we are better prepared to tackle third wave which may or may not occur.”

On the situation in Kashmir, he said he was briefed by the local commanders along the LoC as well as in the hinterland that there has been improvement and fewer incidents initiated by the militants.

“All these are indicators of a return to a sense of normalcy and all these are indicators that Awaam (people) also want the same,” he said.

Asked if the security situation was conducive for the annual Amarnath Yatra, Gen Naravane said the army was ready for smooth conduct of the pilgrimage but a final decision on whether to hold the Yatra is to be taken by the local administration.

Meanwhile, Army chief General reviewed the security situation along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir on Thursday and lauded the troops for the high level of operational preparedness.

Gen. Naravane arrived on a two-day visit to Kashmir on Wednesday to review the overall security scenario in the Valley.

“On the second day of his two-day visit to #Kashmir, General MM Naravane #COAS reviewed the security situation along the Line of Control,” the Army wrote on its official Twitter handle.

It said the local commanders briefed the Chief of Army Staff on the existing security situation and the measures instituted to foil infiltration bids by militants.

“#COAS also interacted with the troops and complimented them for their high morale and the high state of operational preparedness,” the Army added.

On his arrival in Srinagar on Wednesday, Gen. Naravane, accompanied by Lieutenant General YK Joshi, the Northern Army Commander, and Lieutenant General D P Pandey, the Chinar Corps Commander, visited units and formations in the hinterland, where he was briefed by the local commanders on the existing security situation.

The Army chief was also briefed about the measures being taken to identify and target the overground workers’ (OGWs) network “involved in the radicalisation and recruitment” of youngsters into militant ranks. Efforts to prevent local recruitment and facilitate the surrender of local militants were also discussed.

The Army chief’s arrival in Kashmir assumes significance as it comes on a day when the ceasefire between India and Pakistan along the LoC completed 100 days.

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