Indian army chief warns Pakistan, saying that India would retaliate at “the time and place of its choice”

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Indian army chief warns of reprisal

Sri Krishna The Statesman Publication Date : 15-01-2013

Talking tough and describing as “unpardonable” the beheading of a soldier by the Pakistan Army on the Line of Control, the Indian Army Chief, Gen Bikram Singh, yesterday warned that the Army would retaliate at “the time and place of its choice”.

He said what Pakistan did on January 6 was “pre-meditated and pre-planned and the Pakistan army was essentially looking at legitimising and giving legal justification to its action”.

Addressing a press conference here on the eve of Army Day, Gen Singh said there had been nine violations of the ceasefire this year but ever since the ceasefire of November 26, 2003, came into operation “some aberrations” have taken place for which Pakistan is responsible.

“What has hurt us is beheading of our soldier ( Lance Naik Hemraj). It is unacceptable and unpardonable and that beheading is against all rules of engagement,” Gen Singh said. He said the attack was carried out by Pakistan Army personnel but did not rule out the possibility of Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists being associated with it.

To a question on response to the Pakistani provocation, Gen Singh said “we have been firing back and orders are clear that when provoked, we will retaliate and local commanders have been told to be aggressive.”

Gen Singh discounted the possibility of the skirmish leading to a full-fledged war and was dismissive of Pakistan’s nuclear blackmail, saying it had no relation to the local conflict.

On any response to the Pakistani action, he said it has to be the decision of the government.

Gen Singh admitted that there could have been technical errors in patrolling the border, which allowed Pakistani troops to cross over and ambush the Indian soldiers on 8 December. An inquiry, he said, would be conducted later.

He emphasised that the incident was a tactical level operation, localised, and India’s response would not be disproportionate. “We will uphold the ceasefire, but we will not be passive when fired at,” he said.

“It was a gruesome and unpardonable act. This act defied all logic. This is against the rules of soldiering,” said Gen Singh, admitting that there had been another such incident in 2011 when two soldiers from the Rajput regiment were reportedly beheaded in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Army chief denied any attempt to conceal these incidents, saying details had been shared by the Army with the defence ministry.

Gen Singh said the Indian Army had intelligence inputs that Pakistan’s elite commandos, the Special Service Group, was also involved in the cross border raid.

On the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir where the state government wants to revoke it in some areas of the state, Gen Singh was against any decision to dilute it.

“I am of the view that we should not dilute provisions of the AFSPA. Terrorists are afraid of this because this gives us powers to carry out operations against inimical elements and enemies of the state who defy the rule of law. Any decision to revoke from any part where it is applicable must be taken after consideration of all facts and inputs from all security agencies that are deployed,” he said.

On demilitarisation of Siachen Glacier area, he said, “It is strategically important for us and it is an area that belongs to us and we have to hold it”. He felt that in the backdrop of the “trust deficit” existing with Pakistan, there cannot be demilitarisation. He said any decision on demilitarisation has to be “very conscious, deliberate and pragmatic and not lose out the strategic gains that we have made. We have shed a lot of blood in trying to gain that advantage and let us value that”.

On the recent incident at the residence of former Army chief General V K Singh where an Army signals man was apprehended for allegedly trying to dismantle the telephone exchange, Gen Bikram Singh said, “We have already apologised to him and there was no device placed at his residence. We respect all our ex-servicemen. On coming to know of it, I immediately deputed the GOC-in-C of Delhi Area to meet and apologise to him.”

On the family of Lance Naik Hemraj apparently wanting the Army chief to visit them, Gen Singh said “I will go to meet them. It is my bounden duty as head of the family. Let Army Day be over and I would go definitely.”

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