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Indian Army looks to cut troops in Northeast, but not in J&K

REPORT-1-India-13-01-2021

The Indian Army is planning to gradually reduce the number of troops deployed for internal security duties in the Northeast, but is not contemplating moving soldiers out of Jammu and Kashmir because of the prevailing terror situation in the Union Territory, Army chief General M.M. Naravane said Tuesday.

Addressing the media ahead of Army Day on 15 January, General Naravane said that while terror continues unabated in J&K, the security situation in the Northeast has improved manifold. As a result, the Army has already pulled out one of its brigades from the region and now plans to move out another one or two in the near future.

With this, the Army will be able to concentrate on its primary duty of conventional war fighting, he said.

“As far as internal security duties are concerned, terror continues unabated in J&K, although the situation in the hinterland has improved somewhat. We have not yet reached a level where we can contemplate moving troops out of the UT of J&K,” he said.

He added that the security situation in the Northeast has improved.

Now, concerns remain only in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh. In Nagaland, the Army chief said he hopes the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-S.S. Khaplang (NSCN-K), which is not part of the ceasefire agreement, will rejoin the ceasefire process with the surrender of its top leadership, making the state violence-free again.

He added that there is no violence in Mizoram, only one or two groups are involved in Manipur, and most of Assam is quiet.

Not a first

This is not the first time that the Army chief has spoken about withdrawing troops from the Northeast.

In January last year, while interacting with a small group of journalists, he said the region was going through a transitional phase and the Army had drawn up a plan to increasingly withdraw troops deployed there for counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations.

He had then said two battalions of troops, or around 2,000 soldiers, have already been withdrawn from the Northeast and the same could be replicated in Kashmir in the future given that the long-term focus of the Army remains conventional war-fighting, as against the short-term and immediate goals of being involved in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations.

One brigade out, a few more could follow

General Naravane said the overall situation in the Northeast has improved by leaps and bounds for the last one or two years, both due to the efforts of the security forces (the Army, the Assam Rifles and the state police forces) as well as various initiatives taken by the government.

“As a result of this, we have carried out reassessment of our commitment in internal security and one brigade has already been pulled out,” he said.

He added that the Army was awaiting the successful conclusion of the Bodoland Territorial Council election, which was held in December 2020.

“Once that stabilises, we will be able to pull out further — at least one or two more brigades, and with that, hand over the law and order situation to the state police apparatus and other CAPFs,” he said, adding that the Army will then be able to concentrate fully on its primary task, which is to deal with external threats.

He, however, mentioned that certain emergent requirements keep coming up, especially in aid to civil authorities and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations, for which the Army has to step up and be available. He cited the recent example of a forest fire in Dzukou range in Nagaland.