The Indian Army has asked the government to finalise “Rules of Engagement” as it gets ready to open a new training facility in Chhattisgarh, but denied the move is linked to combat naxalites in the State.

“We have deliberately stayed out of any commitment to tackle left wing extremism, except for giving advice or training,” the Chief of Army Staff General V. K. Singh said at his annual press conference on the eve of the Army Day.

Gen. Singh said the Army is facing problem in training its personnel since there is not enough land available and the proposal to set it up in Chhattisgarh under Central Command forms part of an integrated plan drawn earlier.

He said since the Army would be present in the area, it has sought for clarifications from the government on Rules of Engagement to determine as to what extent its personnel are protected from civil laws.

Gen. Singh said the clarification was needed, in case of attack against it in the training camp area either by instigation or design, on how the force should engage the attackers. While it is clear that the force does not require any permission to fire in self-defence, the issue is whether resultant causalities on the attackers would attract criminal procedures against the Army personnel or to what extent they are exempt. “We are neither operating in the area nor are seeking protection under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act,” the Army Chief said.

At the same time he sought to make a distinction from the Indian Air Force, which had earlier sought and got permission to fire from its helicopters while engaging in mission to transport men and material in Naxal-hit regions of Chhattisgarh. The IAF had asked for permission to use retaliatory fire from helicopters after one of its platforms came under attack while ferrying material for elections.

The Indian Army has sought nearly 600 sq. kms of land in the forest area and according to sources the Chhattisgarh government has accepted the necessity but is yet to determine the area of land to be given for training purposes. The sources said live firing is not part of the training which will largely concentrate on manoeuvres and other skills to its personnel.