Onus of 'building bridges' with India is on Pakistan: Army chief

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Srinagar, Jun 3 (PTI) Making it clear that the onus of 'building bridges' with India is on Pakistan, Army Chief General M M Naravane on Thursday said while the ceasefire continues, steps such as putting a stop to infiltration will help in building trust between the two countries.

He said the longevity of the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan depends on the actions of the neighbouring country but asserted that there would be 'no slackening' of preparedness as terror infrastructure across the border was intact.

The army chief was talking to a select group of journalists after his two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir.

In reply to a question about the ceasefire, agreed by India and Pakistan in February, he said, 'As you know we had entered into an understanding with Pakistan at the end of February to observe a ceasefire along the LoC. The ceasefire as of now is holding and the responsibility or I may say the onus of making sure that the ceasefire holds is squarely on Pakistan. We are willing to observe the ceasefire as long as they do so.' However, the army chief pointed out that while the ceasefire is on, the terror infrastructure and presence of terrorists on the other side of the LoC continue.

'And therefore, there can be no slackening as far as we are concerned in our levels of preparedness and alertness,' he made it clear.

The army chief, who earlier visited the forward posts along the LoC, was asked whether Pakistan could be trusted with the ceasefire. He sought to make it clear saying 'trust is a very difficult thing to come by and it takes a very long time to develop and there have been decades of mistrust between Pakistan and India and obviously the situation on that score cannot change overnight.' He said that if they continue to observe ceasefire in letter and spirit, 'if they desist from pushing in terrorists across and foment trouble in India, then all these small steps will definitely go incrementally to build up that trust between the two countries.' 'So, as I said, the onus is entirely on Pakistan to build up on whatever we have achieved so far.' he said.

Gen Naravane also made it clear that there was no troop reduction in the near future saying although the ceasefire is in place 'we cannot, in any way, reduce our levels of alertness and preparedness'.

He pointed out that the Counter Infiltration Grid of the Army along the LoC and Counter Insurgency Grid keep on assessing the situation from time to time.

'All these deployments are dynamic and they depend on the situation and the threat perception... If we feel that the situation permits, then definitely we do take recourse to pulling out some troops from active deployment to the rear areas so that they also get time for rest and relief as also for training but they will not be pulled out altogether,' he said.

The army chief also issued a message to the youths of Jammu and Kashmir, asking them to shun the path of violence saying that after a long time a situation has been reached where peace and tranquillity prevail and people are in a position to pursue their dreams and their aspirations.

'So, my message not only for youth but everyone would be that it is only when we will have peace and tranquillity, there will be development and if there is development, we will be able to prosper together and therefore we should shun this path of violence.

'It does not get you anywhere. You just need to see outside, how the world has moved on, how India has moved on and therefore embrace the future and the world over the future lies in shunning violence. And if you do that, it will only hasten the process of ushering a new era of development and prosperity,' he said.

On holding of the Amarnath Yatra this year, Gen Naravane said that he had been briefed about the situation by the commanders and 'I am glad to say that all the parameters we judge normalcy by have seen great improvement'.

'... We are from our side prepared and we have taken all the necessary steps for the smooth conduct of the Amarnath Yatra. Of course, the decision to conduct the yatra or not lies with the civil administration but we are ready from our side.' About the situation in the valley, he said the entire nation wanted peace and tranquillity to prevail in this region.

'In this overall gamut, the role of Army is to bring down levels of violence to an extent where the civil administration and the local security forces can then play the role...that is where the role of Army lies, the two works in sync with the local administration and all the other forces who are here, the ultimate aim of course being to bring down the levels of violence so that peace and development can take place.' The army chief also indicated re-calibrating the 'Sadhbhavna' project under which the army used to build buildings for local panchayats, schools, tube wells, bridges and take children out on nationwide tours.

'We have been doing Sadbhavna projects for more than two decades. Every idea which includes Sadbhavna had its relevance in a point of time....But as the situation has improved and as the administration is now being able to reach out in far flung areas, we will now also change our strategy and recalibrate Sadbhavna activities in sync with the local administration so that we do not do duplicate effort,' he said. PTI MIJ SKL ZMN ZMN

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