Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat has justified awarding Major Leetul Gogoi, who is at the centre of a controversy for using a Kashmiri man as a human shield to save lives of his men and polling staff in the Valley last month. Major Gogoi has been awarded for excellence in counter-insurgency operations. Last week, he addressed media and narrated his side of the story of the incident. In an exclusive interview to PTI, General Rawat has talked about why the Army is right in awarding Major Gogoi. He has also talked about the Kashmir situation at present, how it can be solved and why it is important for him to keep the morale of the Indian Army high in these times.
Here are the top 10 points from Army chief General Bipin Rawat’s interview:
1. India is fighting a dirty proxy war: “This is a proxy war and proxy war is a dirty war. It is played in a dirty way. The rules of engagements are there when the adversary comes face-to-face and fights with you. It is a dirty war… That is where innovation comes in. You fight a dirty war with innovations,” Rawat said.
2. Need to maintain the morale of my troops: “People are throwing stones at us, people are throwing petrol bombs at us. If my men ask me what do we do, should I say, just wait and die? I will come with a nice coffin with a national flag and I will send your bodies home with honour. Is it what I am supposed to tell them as chief? I have to maintain the morale of my troops who are operating there.”
3. On security challenge in Kashmir: General Rawat suggested that it would have been easier for the armed forces if the protesters were firing weapons instead of throwing stones.”In fact, I wish these people, instead of throwing stones at us, were firing weapons at us. Then I would have been happy. Then I could do what I (want to do).”
4. A country is doomed when people lose fear of the army: “Adversaries must be afraid of you and at the same time your people must be afraid of you. We are a friendly army, but when we are called to restore law and order, people have to be afraid of us.”
5. It is my duty to lift morale of my men: “As Army Chief my concern is morale of the Army. That is my job. I am far away from the battle field. I cannot influence the situation there. I can only tell the boys that I am with you. I always tell my people, things will go wrong, but if things have gone wrong and you did not have malafide intent, I am there.”
6. On reward to Major Leetul Gogoi: General Rawat said that armed forces have the right of self-defence and Major Gogoi could have opted for firing at the crowd but he chose not to resort to it. General Rawat said that he had a broad idea about what was going on in the Court of Inquiry into the Gogoi incident, and that is why he went ahead with awarding the Major. “I know what is happening in the COI. It is being finalised. What do we punish him for.”
7. There is a conspiracy to break the trust between various security forces: General Rawat said that Major Gogoi could not have refused to provide security when polling agents had sought security assistance. “Tomorrow elections have to be held in Anantnag and similar things may happen. If the army does not respond to call for assistance, then the trust between the people whom we are protecting, police and army will break. That is something I cannot allow to happen. This is what the militants want. It can create a divide between the army and other security forces.”
8. Only four districts of Kashmir are disturbed: Rawat said that only four districts of South Kashmir were disturbed and it was wrong to say that entire Kashmir has gone out of control.
9. Solution to Kashmir issue: “It will have to be a composite solution. Everybody will have to get involved. Army’s role is to ensure that violence does not take place and the common man who is not indulging in this (violence) is protected.”
When asked about the need for political initiative to reach out to the Kashmiri people, the Army Chief said government should decide on this. He added that such steps have been taken in past as well. “Has political initiative not been taken in the past? What was the result, you had Kargil…,” he said.
10. No limited war with Pakistan: The Army Chief said he does not anticipate a “limited war” with Pakistan. The Army chief emphasised the need of taking harsh measures against infiltration and to counter terrorism.