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Appointment of Kashmir interlocutor won’t affect army ops in Valley: Bipin Rawat

The appointment of an interlocutor for Kashmir would not affect army’s operations in the Valley, chief Bipin Rawat said on Wednesday, two days after the government named a former IB chief to restart the dialogue process.

“The government’s Kashmir strategy has worked and we are negotiating from a point of strength,” army chief Gen Rawat said about the Centre picking former Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma to hold talks with all stakeholders to find a solution to the 30-year-old insurgency.

The government’s decision to restart the dialogue process was an admission that its muscular approach to the Valley’s problems had failed, the opposition Congress had said.

“With appointment of interlocutor, I hope government has finally admitted ‘muscular approach’ has failed in J-K,” senior Congress leader and former home minister P Chidambaram had tweeted after the announcement of talks.

The government has been pursuing a tough line against a surge in violence in Kashmir that has left more than 100 people dead over the past year.

Security forces have stepped up the offensive and 140 militants have been killed in Kashmir this year.

Speaking at a FICCI seminar on finding solutions to the army’s modernisation problems through indigenisation, the army chief flagged concerns about the security of military installations in the hinterland.

He stressed on the need to deploy robust intelligence and surveillance systems to prevent a repeat of Uri and Pathankot-style militant attacks.

“Security of bases in the hinterland is a cause for concern,” Rawat said, adding the army was working on plans to deploy electronic warfare and early-warning systems to keep an eye not only on border areas but also in the interiors.

Nineteen soldiers were killed when suspected Pakistani militants struck at an army camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri on September 18, 2016, one of the deadliest strikes against the force in recent years.

Ten days later, Indian soldiers crossed the line of control and attacked terror launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

On January 2 of the same year, a group of heavily armed alleged Pakistan militants stormed the Pathankot airbase. The three-day audacious siege left six soldiers dead and raised questions over intelligence gathering.

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