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SOURCE: THE PRINT

In a first, the Army has introduced a compulsory psychological training module for all soldiers posted in Jammu and Kashmir where they are heavily involved in anti-terrorism and anti-infiltration operations.

According to Army sources, the module has been introduced at the elite 15 Corps Battle School (CBS) in Khrew in Awantipora area of Pulwama district. The institute trains all soldiers — irrespective of the rank — under a reorientation programme after they are posted to the Line of Control (LoC) and in Jammu and Kashmir.

The reorientation programme for those posted at the Line of Control (LoC) lasts 14 days, and 28 days for those sent into the hinterland. The new psychological training module has been introduced as part of this regular programme.

A senior officer involved in the induction of troops into J&K and at the LoC said the psychological training period was introduced for the first time early this year.

The Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR), a lab of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has designed this module. The lab conducts research in psychology for armed forces personnel.

DIPR officials had visited the CBS last year. Accordingly, specialised training was introduced for combat stress management in the CBS, with a focus on operations in Kashmir.

The institute spread over 150 acres has multiple firing ranges, obstacle courses and even a model village for the soldiers to get a sense of what to expect, and the sensitivities to be kept in mind, while operating in the hinterland.

Every month, about 3,000 soldiers undergo training at CBS.

Focus on ‘just conduct’
Sources said the Army has been focusing on not just people-friendly operations in the hinterland but also on overall “just conduct” in soldiers’ dealing with the civilian population.

“While of course the soldiers undergo an initiation process and get physically trained for dynamics in the hinterland and the LoC, the idea is to increase the cognitive memory of the subconscious mind of the rules of engagement and just conduct,” said a second officer.

Sources said the Army conducts about 30,000 operations in the region annually, but even a single case of misconduct or violation of rules of engagement can be blown out of proportion casting aspersions on the other 29,999 operations.

These operations include not just encounters but also dominance patrol and search operations, besides others.

The sources said the five tenets of training at the CBS are — good faith, minimum force, impartiality, necessity of force and just conduct.

Avoiding collateral damage
Since 5 August 2019, when the Narendra Modi government scrapped Article 370 and divided the erstwhile state of J&K into two union territories, special emphasis has been laid on ensuring there are no civilian casualties during the operations.

“We have been extremely cautious of the dynamics in play. Every soldier has been told not to allow any chance of civilian casualty or undesired damage to property even at the cost of terrorists escaping in an operation,” a third officer said, adding that “not a single civilian should die due to security forces”.

The sources said 30 civilians have been killed in Kashmir since 1 January this year, of which 22 were killed by terrorists. Five were killed in ceasefire violations while three were killed in crossfire during encounters with security forces. None died in Army operations.

They said the Army is not looking at killing of a raw recruit as a kinetic success, adding that the focus is on ensuring more surrenders, which are often dubbed as arrests to ensure safety of the subject concerned.