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HVK Archives: "India'll never loosen its grip on Kashmir" (Interview of Girish Chandra Saxena)

"India'll never loosen its grip on Kashmir" (Interview of Girish Chandra Saxena) - The Indian Express

Posted By Ashok Chowgule (ashokvc@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in)
October 17, 1998

Title: "India'll never loosen its grip on Kashmir" (Interview of Girish
Chandra Saxena)
Author:
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: October 17, 1998

This days of retirement interrupted a second time by that call from
South Block in May, Girish Chandra Saxena, 70, again finds himself in
what must be one of the most picturesque residences in the country. And
Srinagar's Raj Bhavan, he admits, has its recuperative powers. During
his first tenure as Governor from 1990-1993, when militancy was at its
peak, Saxena would often step out for a deep whiff of the mountain air,
with the Dal Lake in front of his bungalow and the Zaherwan Hills behind
Now, with the National Conference Government in place, Saxena, a former
RAW chief and security advisor to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, has
settled down for his second and certainly more relaxed tenure. He spent
two hours last week talking to RITU SARIN in Raj Bhavan Excerpts..

Q: How would you compare your earlier tenure as Governor with this one?
A: There has been a sea-change in the situation and signs of normalcy
are there to see. But there are two or three things, that have come in
the way of normalcy. One is the change of season to the summer months,
which are always more prone to infiltration. The second is that Pakistan
has tried to escalate matters - both on the LoC as well as in the
interior areas. Thirdly, many more foreign militants are coming in,
maybe one-third now. When I was here last time, the number of foreign
militants would be in double figures, 40-50. The number has been
increasing sharply, though a fairly high percentage has been getting
killed.

Q: How closely are developments in the Valley linked to events along the
Pakistan-Afghanistan border?
A: As I said, the character of militancy is changing since foreign
mercenaries are calling the shots. Local militants are playing a
subsidiary role - as guides, giving logistical support, sanctuary and
also making hits at softer targets. Territorially, the arc of militancy
has extended more to the Jammu sector.

Q: There are now confirmed reports of large-scale infiltration and
dumping of huge quantities of arms. Will the next summer be another
flash-point?
A: The control of infiltration is actually apprehension and killing. You
cannot physically block their entry. Our success rate has been quite
good. We must have killed some 650 militants this year and apprehended
some 750. The volumes are far less than earlier years because there has
been a fall in the number of incidents.

Q: But Pakistan has managed to internationalise the Kashmir issue.
A: They are just trying to keep the pot boiling.... They cannot afford
to let things stabilise too much. But they are also worried: there was
a time when people were scared to put a TV dish on their homes, but now
you have cable operators, video-parlours and beauty parlours operating.
Even illicit liquor is being sold. Basically, we are very much on top
and though the gun is still around, we have an upper hand. We have
withstood everything they have thrown at us.

Q: What about the Taliban factor? Some Hurriyat leaders have even
accorded a welcome to them...
A: It is only in India that people can get away with that kind of talk.
Now if you always keep booking them (Hurriyat leaders) under the law
that also has its pluses and minuses and if you give them too long a
rope, that also has its pluses and minuses ... Basically, some of the
noises which were made internationally in the wake of the nuclear
explosions uplifted the sagging morale of the Hurriyat leaders ... But
soon the people will realise that nothing is going to happen. You will
never see a loosening of India's grip on Kashmir.

Q: Is there a tangible threat from the Taliban?
A: The Taliban factor is not there per se. And we have been dealing with
a sizeable number of Afghans here, who have seen war and are the Taliban
types... Their training camps are the same - it is only that some of
them head in the direction of Mazaar-e-Sharief and some in the direction
of the Valley.

So if the Talibans do come in larger numbers, it will not be a new
experience for us. It is the arithmetic which will bother us. There will
be more bloodshed and we will also take a few more casualties. While
they may have overrun most of Afghanistan, they will be no match for the
Indian Army.

Q: You are a veteran intelligence expert. Is there any aspect of the
changing ground situation that worries you?
A: Some heavier weapons have started coming in, mortars, a few missiles,
anti-tank missiles, antiaircraft guns (though not in very large numbers
and tailored to take on just low-flying aircraft) ... Then, there is a
lot of sophistication in mine blasting and IEDs which are blasted by
remote-control. We have been trying to perfect our systems to counter
them.

... On the whole it has been a good policy on our part not to use
heavier weapons, not to use tanks. APCs and aerial bombardments since
they would cause more casualties and give them a lot of publicity. We do
not raise the temperature beyond a point... Militancy has to be
countered not just on the security front, but also the political front,
the economic front, the administrative front the psychological front and
the publicity front.

Q: What steps has India taken to cool down the temperatures at the LoC?
A: We are taking various steps: some bunkers are being built for
civilians ... otherwise. in the open, the people may be running not away
from a shell but towards the next hit. We are also trying to get a good
idea of the locations from where the firing is coming. Secondly, we now
have alternative routes and detours on the most vulnerable roads and
passages so that the movement of convoys and things does not get
restricted.

Q: Which side had the edge during this year's intensive border firing?
A: Ours was generally a reaction to what they started. We were never, or
hardly ever, the first to start. We lost nearly 20 security personnel
and about 50 civilians, but their casualties, verified by hard
intelligence, were at least double that.

Q: How has the role of the Governor changed, now that a popular
government is in place?
A: My role is constitutional and all the hard work and executive
authority is being wielded by the Government. I am around in case any
one seeks me out for any exchange of views and if they care for it.

Q: How is the interface between Srinagar and New Delhi?
A: It is definitely businesslike and purposeful... I feel there is a lot
more interaction between the Centre and the state and between the
different security forces... What is true is that the filling of the
political void has helped speed up the movement towards normalcy.

Q: But the Chief Minister has been talking about the indifference of the
Centre.....
A: I think they treat Kashmir as a special case, but there are
constraints even for the Centre. It is not as if there is an absolute
reservoir of funds... but they have a helpful attitude. But what we see
here is a deep human tragedy which requires a total national effort. It
is beyond one or two leaders here or the Centre only.... Certain issues
have to be kept above politics. Too much is at stake in Kashmir.

Q: Will Kashmir continue to be the core issue in the bilateral talks to
be held between India and Pakistan (they have since started)?
A: Kashmir will be a trouble spot till good sense prevails in our
neighbouring country and we move toward a more friendly and cooperative
relationship. After all, the economic imperatives are acute... Apart
from this, the political imperatives, the geo-political imperatives are
there and this should impel both sides.

I think economy will be the key which will break the lockjam because it
will be a win-win situation for both. At the moment, neither side is
benefiting. Maybe on the other side also realisation is dawning, but
they have more pressures from their domestic constituencies than we
have.


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