No downsizing of force for now: Army Chief

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BORDER VIGIL: The Chief of the Army Staff, General J.J. Singh, at a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday. &
BORDER VIGIL: The Chief of the Army Staff, General J.J. Singh, at a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday. &

Sandeep Dikshit

"At least a quarter of our Army is always on the border"

  • Cites U.S. intervention in Iraq and Israel's aggression against Lebanon
  • Not for abolishing Armed Forces Special Powers Act

    NEW DELHI: The Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. J. J. Singh, on Tuesday ruled out downsizing of the force in the immediate future in view of the prevailing circumstances.

    "At least a quarter of our Army is always on the border or quelling insurgency. In our situation, whatever you do, you need that [boots on the ground].''

    However, the Army would be committed to becoming a lean and mean fighting machine provided the country resolved the problems that required more human resource, he told newspersons.

    Gen. Singh cited the case of U.S. intervention in Iraq, achieved initially with superior air power, and pointed out that Washington now realised that it needed more soldiers on the ground. "They don't talk about `shock and awe' any longer.'' During Israel's aggression against Lebanon, a number of civilians were killed in bombings because of an error of information and technology.

    Despite his preference for `boots on the ground' as compared to air power, the Army Chief played down the recent controversy between the former Chiefs of the Air Force and the Army over seeking air power during the Kargil War. "As a nation, we should see the end result. The result was a decisive diplomatic-military victory. Besides, there is always professional disagreement of opinion in facing a challenge.'' He declined to comment on the claims about Kargil made in Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's recent book, saying "I cannot comment on what a head of state has said.''

    The Army Chief said the situation in Jammu & Kashmir was "under control'' with violence levels having dropped by 20 per cent and the militants no longer taking on the Army in "head-on combat.''

    The attrition ratio had gone down to 7.6 militants killed for every Army casualty due to "surgical operations'' launched on the basis of intelligence provided by the locals. Surrenders too had gained momentum and this year's figure was twice the number of surrenders last year, most of them from the ranks of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. "We want to bring violence down to a degree where the State administration can function in an effective manner,'' he said.

    On the North-East situation, he said the desire for dialogue among separatist groups was due to sustained operations by the Army and other security forces.

    However, Gen. Singh was not in favour of abolishing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that gave security forces immunity for their action.

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