Army Chief General Manoj Pande, Jammu and Kashmir,

Army Chief General Manoj Pande addressing the Army's annual press conference.

“Our Adversaries Have Active Role In Aiding Terror In J&K”: Army Chief

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India’s adversaries are playing an “active role” in aiding terrorists and terror-related activities in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri and Poonch, Army Chief General Manoj Pande said Thursday, in comments seen as referring to Pakistan’s continuing support for cross-border terrorism. General Pande, addressing the Army’s annual press conference, called the situation in those two regions a “source of concern”, and said, “There was peace there till 2017/18 (but) this is now an area where our adversaries have been active…”

“In the last five to six months, in Rajouri and Poonch, there has been increase in terrorism. This is a matter of concern. If you see… before 2003 terrorism in that area was eradicated, and peace was there till 2017/18. But now, because of the situation normalising in the Valley, our adversaries are active there.”

“In terms of abetting terrorism and encouraging proxy tanzeems (proxies of known terror groups)… In the last three years 45 terrorists were eliminated in this area. Last year alone there were five infiltration bids, which were foiled, and six terrorists were eliminated in those attempts. Even in the hinterland about 14 terrorists were neutralised,” the General said.

General Pande also shared a nine-point action plan to improve the situation in Rajouri, including enhanced intelligence gathering and better synergy with police and local security officials.

The nine points outlined by the General also include an emphasis on outreach to local populations and respect for human rights, both of which are crucial messages in the light of the death of three civilians after they were detained for questioning following a terror attack in Poonch that killed four soldiers.

Enhanced deployment and reorienting specific units, as well as human intelligence, and use of technology and instituting learnings from previous encounters are also key, the General said.

The Army Chief’s comments come after multiple terror attacks in the Poonch and Rajouri areas, including an ambush of two military vehicles in the former district last month.

Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the People’s Anti-Fascist Front, which is linked to the Pak-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist outfit that has been banned by India.

The PAFF was first seen in 2019, after the government revoked J&K’s special status.

Four soldiers were killed and three others injured in that attack, adding to the five, including two officers, who died in action in an anti-terror op in Rajouri’s Kalakote.

General Pande was in the region last year, as was Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, to review the ops, and also to firefight protests after three civilians were killed after they were detained for questioning.

The Army has ordered an investigation into the deaths.

Also in Rajouri, in April-May, 10 Army personnel were killed in twin attacks by terrorists.

Over 35 soldiers have been killed in action in these areas in the past two years.

The Pir Panjal region – Rajouri and Poonch districts – had been free from terrorism since 2003 but major attacks have resume since October 2021. In the last seven months alone, 20 soldiers, including officers and special forces commandos, have been killed.

On the overall situation in J&K, where the Supreme Court has said an Assembly election must be held by September, the General said the ceasefire with Pak on Line of Control is holding despite infiltration bids.

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