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Marked improvement in J&K situation after Indo-Pak ceasefire in Feb: Army Chief

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“Situation along LAC normal since Feb disengagement in Pangong areas”

New Delhi: There has been no infiltration along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir after India and Pakistan agreed to observe a ceasefire in February and it has resulted in a significant drop in all parameters of violence, Army Chief General MM Naravane said on Thursday.

In an interactive session at a think-tank, Gen. Naravane also said there will always be elements who will try to sabotage the process of peace and development and the security forces will have to be mindful of this challenge.

In a sudden and significant move aimed at reducing tensions, the Indian and Pakistani armies announced on February 25 that they would cease firing across the LoC, while recommitting themselves to a 2003 ceasefire agreement.

The Chief of Army Staff said following the February ceasefire, the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir has seen a “marked improvement”.

“Since there is a ceasefire, there is no longer any infiltration. As there is no infiltration, the number of terrorists in the valley is lesser and as the number of terrorists is lesser, the number of terror-related incidents has also seen a drop,” Gen. Naravane said.

“But there will always be elements who will try to sabotage the process of peace and development. We will have to cater for that. We have a strong counter-terrorism and counter-infiltration grid in Jammu and Kashmir and our operations to that end to ensure peace and tranquility will continue,” he added.

The Army Chief said there were certain incidents of violence like firing at some security forces’ picket or gunning down of some person.

“These kinds of incidents do continue. But overall, the sharp drop in all parameters of violence clearly indicates that the general population in Kashmir is all for peace and development,” he said.

Going forward, the Army Chief said there is a need to focus more on creating conditions that are conducive to peace and development.

Asked about the possible impact on India of the US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban increasing its influence in that country, Gen. Naravane declined to give a direct reply, saying the American drawdown is still underway.

“So in that front, we will have to wait and watch to see how it unfolds and how it impacts us,” he said.

Asked about the recent drone attack on the Jammu Air Force station, he said, “I am sure that there would be some inimical elements who would not like peace to prevail in the Valley.”

“Post the ceasefire, all the parameters of violence have dropped. So there was definitely a linkage between the support that the terrorists got from across the border and the levels of violence in the Kashmir valley,” the Army Chief added.

Pakistan has been making concerted efforts to internationalise the Kashmir issue. The neighbouring country stepped up an anti-India campaign after New Delhi announced in August 2019 its decision to withdraw the special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into Union territories.

India has told Pakistan that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Islamabad in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence. The country has said the onus is on Pakistan to create such an environment.

Meanwhile, the Army Chief said that the talks between India and China on the border row in eastern Ladakh have helped “build trust” and the situation in the region has been normal since the disengagement in the Pangong Tso areas in February.

In a virtual interactive session at a think-tank, Gen Naravane, at the same time, said that the developments along the northern borders in the past year are a “stark reminder” that the armed forces need to continually prepare and adapt to the exigencies of modern wars to preserve India’s territorial integrity.

“The situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is normal ever since the disengagement took place in February this year from the northern and southern banks of Pangong lake as well as the Kailash ranges,” he said.

“Since then, both sides have strictly adhered to in the letter and sprit the disengagement that was agreed upon. We are engaging the Chinese at various levels at the political level, at the diplomatic level and of course at the military level,” Gen Naravane added.

“This talk between us is going on and this has helped built trust between the two sides. And going ahead, we are sure that we will be able to resolve all the remaining issues,” he said.

Gen Naravane said the militaries of the two countries have been engaged in dialogue at various levels.

“The developments along our northern borders during the past year are a stark reminder that in order to preserve our territorial integrity the armed forces need to continually prepare and adapt to the exigencies of modern wars,” he said.

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