In a big statement that signals a change in policy, Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane on Wednesday said that the force would concentrate fully on conventional warfare in North-East rather than on counter-insurgency operations. The general also informed that two battalions of the Army have already been pulled out of the region.
"Once the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) elections are over, we would reduce more troops. In the next two to two and a half years, we would concentrate fully on conventional warfare in North-East rather on counter-insurgency operations," General MM Naravane was quoted as saying as ANI.
The Chief of Army Staff also stated that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has improved since the abrogation of Article 370. In a surprise move, the Modi government had on August 5 last year revoked the special status of the erstwhile state and split it into two new Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Reacting on the development, retired Major Gaurav Arya said the statement by General MM Naravane holds significance in context to our military situation with China. "It is important because the North East has been festering with separatist groups since the early 1950s. A lot of the problems have now been resolved. A very big part of the Army's focus has been Kashmir which is a sort of hybrid warfare and is unconventional. The sharp focus now should be on conventional warfare (in Nort East) with a focus on China. Clearly we are preparing for it and the Army chief saying so in public is very important," Arya told Republic TV.
The significance of General MM Naravane's statement comes two days after the Government of India signed a tripartite agreement with members of all factions of insurgent groups like the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and All Bodo Students' Union (ABSU). The Bodo groups in Assam had been demanding a separate state of Bodoland for the last 50 years. Their agitation had caused extensive violence and loss of hundreds of lives over the years.
Similarly, the government has been engaging with other insurgent groups in border states like Nagaland and Manipur to convince them to give up arms and join mainstream politics. Last week, the government also signed the Bru-Reang refugee agreement to resolve the contentious issue of resettlement of the Bru refugees in Tripura.