NEW DELHI: India has more effective options than surgical strikes to teach Pakistan a lesson, Indian chief of army staff General Bipin Rawat told Indian newspaper in an exclusive interview.
“Pakistan thinks it is fighting an easy war that’s paying them dividends, but we have options (other than surgical strikes) that are far more impactful and effective. Our army is not barbaric. I don’t want to (collect) heads because we are a disciplined force,” he said, referring to the alleged decapitation and mutilation of two Indian soldiers on May 1.
Rawat was circumspect about the United States designating Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin as a “global terrorist.” “I will wait and watch to see if Pakistan truly reins him in, because he was issuing a calendar of protests on the very day he was designated,” he said.
The Indian army chief also alluded to the fact that while there was an official bounty on the head of Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed, it did not lead to any crackdown on the militant leader or his outfit.
On holding peace talks with Kashmiri leaders in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK), Rawat was categorical that “dialogue can happen only when there is peace”. “The army has a job to do. We have to ensure that peace returns. I’ll hold talks with a person who assures me that my convoy will not be hit. The day that happens, I will personally hold a dialogue,” he told HT, sitting at the Indian army headquarters in Delhi.
Rawat, nevertheless, claimed that the army has been making attempts to reach out to Kashmiri youth. “There is a lot of misinformation and indoctrination. Young boys of 12 and 13 say they want to become bombers. We are trying to identify youth leaders we can talk to,” he said. “I would like people to give up violence… I don’t want innocents to be caught in the crossfire. We don’t want any collateral damage.”
Rawat, however, defended Indian Army Major NL Gogoi’s action of using a civilian as a human shield by citing the recent lynching of deputy superintendent of police MA Pandith outside the Jamia Masjid mosque in Srinagar. “The election commission staff called for help. What if they had been lynched?” he asked. “I am not on the ground. I don’t know what my boys are going through, but I have to be the motivator.”
The Indian army chief shrugged off reports of a recent skirmish between the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and Indian troops in Sikkim. “There was no incursion into our territory. I don’t know where the visuals are from, but they are not from Sikkim,” he said.