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Tuesday, July 31, 2001

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Winning people over in Ladakh

By Shujaat Bukhari

LEH, JULY 30. The gun is no solution to the problems in Jammu and Kashmir and the only way is to win over the people, according to Lt. Gen. Arjun Ray, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Leh- based 14 Corps.

The architect of the ``Operation Sadbhavana'', which has reached every nook and corner of Ladakh, Lt. Gen. Ray said here on Monday that no political solution was possible unless there was de- alienation of the masses. Emphasising the role of people in keeping militancy at bay, the GOC said ``if the political process has to be durable, their trust has to be won''.

Advocating priority for befriending the people, he said ``Operation Sadbhavana'' had to be replicated in the entire Jammu and Kashmir. He disagreed that Islamic fundamentalism was emerging as a threat. ``It is a myth. One who practises the fundamentals of his religion is not a fundamentalist,'' he said adding ``there is no Islamic fundamentalism in Ladakh and Kashmir. Unko badnam kiya ja raha hai (They are being defamed)''. Islam was one of the compulsory subjects being taught in 16 schools run by the Army in Ladakh. ``Religion is the best vehicle to teach values''. Even the officers of the Corps were being educated on Islamic fundamentalism so that there was no wrong notion about the term commonly used as one of the basis to counter-insurgency.

He said national security was all about human security. ``National security is incomplete without it, it is rather its core''.

``All that we are doing is to forestall militancy in Ladakh and we have succeeded well in the last 13 months''. Outlining his priorities in the region, which saw the Kargil war in 1999, Lt. Gen. Ray said ``my charter is to win the trust and confidence of the people''. On the relationship with the civil administration in making the operation a success, he said the aim ``is to produce a new paradigm of relationship between politicians, civil and military administration''.

``National security does not mean defence. Gun and tanks do not give you security'' he said. He did not agree with the view that such operations might not succeed in Kashmir. ``No it is possible. You have to sanitise an area and then develop it. It cannot be done at one go''.

``I believe the Army has to play a lead role in border areas which only can thwart infiltration leading ultimately to peace in the region. Other security agencies can assist it''. He claimed that ``Operation Sadbhavana'' had laid the foundation for border development making Ladakh region a militant-free zone.

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