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SOURCE: THE PRINT

 The counter-terrorism operations in south Kashmir have now become shorter, with some gun-fights lasting for less than five minutes as most of the terrorists recruited this year in the Valley have no training, said a top Army officer in charge of the region.

Giving details of the operations by the security forces, Major General Rashim Bali, Commander of the Victor Force that deals with South Kashmir, said since the revocation of Article 370 and transforming the erstwhile state into a Union Territory along with a crackdown on funding and instigators, stone-pelting incidents have come down drastically.

“The Valley does not see the kind of stone-pelting that used to take place earlier. Also, even during the operations, the stone-pelting is very negligible,” he said, speaking at the Victor Force headquarters in Kashmir.

Major General Bali said the emphasis is to ensure a surrender by the terrorists rather than using heavy force initially.

The officer, who was earlier the Defence Attache in Afghanistan, said strict instructions have been issued to the troops to follow all procedures in operations.

“Our first aim is to ensure there is no collateral damage in terms of civilians or property. This instruction has been sent out to all soldiers. The next is to ensure that the option of surrender is given to the local boys who have joined terror groups,” he said, adding that even the use of force is increased in a calibrated manner depending on the actions by the terrorists.

‘200% sure’ about stopping local terror recruitment
Giving details of the sensitivity involved in the operations, Bali said in the last one month, there have been three cases in which terrorists had hidden in a mosque, and the soldiers stayed in cordon and only attacked when the terrorists tried to escape by firing first.

“Not a single damage was done to the mosque. It was a pinpointed short burst of fire. Actually in the last three operations, the actual gun-fight lasted for only less than five minutes,” he said.

Explaining why the encounters were so short, Major General Bali said most of the terrorists operating in the Valley are of the 2020 vintage and have no training in gun-fight.

Asked if the high local terror recruitment despite being given no arms training is a concern, the officer said it is.

“For me even if one (person) joins terror it is a concern. But are we on route to stop this? I am 200 per cent sure,” he added.

Major General Bali said their efforts are to ensure that the security forces are not just to carry out tactical operations.

“We have been reaching out to the public. They notice our operations and know that we have given the option of surrender and are not causing any collateral damage,” he said, adding that the Army has not intensified its youth outreach programmes.

“Believe it or not we have even started organising trips for the youngsters to our company commands also to build a connect. We are also now organising more youth-oriented programmes like cricket and football matches, besides helping set up youth centres and other initiatives,” the officer said.

‘Neutralisation of terrorists restricting Pakistan’s influence’
Bali said the Army’s effort is now to constrict the space of Pakistan in the physical and psychological domain.

“Neutralisation of a terrorist in terms of surrender or killing is restricting Pakistan’s influence in the physical domain. Carrying out clean operations and taking the youth along is restricting Pakistan in the psychological domain,” he added.

“The soldiers know that how one deals with a terrorist is not how we deal with the civilians,” he added.

ThePrint had reported earlier this week that the Army has for the first time introduced a compulsory psychological training module for all soldiers posted in Jammu and Kashmir.

Major General Bali said the jawans and officers are well aware that any act of negligence by omission or commission in operations or in dealing with civilians will not be tolerated.