Former IAF head Air Chief Marshal P V Naik has called for “ruthless measures” – including the use of air power and special zones where intruders can be killed without a warning – to combat militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian Air Force veteran, in an interview to PTI, suggested a slew of methods, which, he said, could be “better accomplished” under a few months of Governor’s Rule. “Hard decisions will have to be taken…It (the situation) demands something which others feel we as a nation lack: Ruthlessness,” he said. Naik, who was the IAF chief from 2009 to 2011, said there had to be a “more effective use” of air power, so far “underutilised” in the valley. The retired IAF chief’s aggressive views on battling militancy followed Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s position that the Army faced a “dirty war” in the valley.
“This is a proxy war and proxy war is a dirty war. It is played in a dirty way,” Rawat told PTI last month. Fifty-nine Army personnel have been killed in counter- terror operations in J&K since 2016. Twenty-two infiltration attempts have been foiled so far this year and 34 armed intruders killed on the LoC, according to official figures. Naik believed “Red Zones” should be declared in infiltration prone areas near the LOC. “Each zone should be a bubble 10 km in depth and include airspace above. Any unauthorised movement in this zone should be treated as inimical,” he said. “We must start thinking along these lines if we are to control terrorism in the Kashmir valley,” he added. Special forces with a clear mandate needed to be deployed to “seek and destroy” foreign terrorists, said Naik, now leading a retired life in Pune. “There are around 250 foreign terrorists in the valley. Use special forces with a clear mandate to seek and destroy. This would be possible only if the Army re-establishes the intelligence framework with locals. A few months of Governor’s Rule should facilitate this activity,” he said.
Governor’s rule should continue until the situation was conducive to the holding of fair elections, he added. Naik also stressed the need for a single agency to “collate and manage” intelligence from disparate agencies. A central data base, he added, was also needed, with face, DNA and fingerprint matching facilities. “We need cutting-edge forms of communication, too,” he said. The former Navy chief suggested hardware for Kashmir: unmanned air vehicles (UAV), attack helicopters and fixed wing aircraft on the lines of the AC-130 of the US Air Force. “The resources would be C-130s modified with radar controlled 20 mm gun and a 105 mm howitzer similar to the AC- 130 of the US Air Force. There would be HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance) UAVs on station covering the Red Zones and troubled spots. Attack choppers would be on standby during the day. Special Forces teams would be ready along with Mi-17 choppers to move them,” he said. He explained that when UAV spotted targets, they would also appear on the screens of the C-130 which would “track and neutralise” them.
“In Red Zones, no clearance would be required except to ascertain that they are not our own troops. The same method could be used when large mobs gather,” he added. All this, he said, appeared “simplistic”, but was not. “It will take a lot of planning, lead time, training and practice.It will consume a lot of resources including manpower,” he said. Naik also said the Kashmir issued could not be resolved without improving governance. “There is a need to streamline working of departments, ensure high efficiency and outreach to people,” he said. The government should check the media and ensure that “inflammatory programmes” were not aired, while developing its own narrative to combat anti-national propaganda, he said. “I have mostly spoken of things military but the situation demands a strong political will and public support,” he said.