Srinagar: The army said on Thursday it was ready for the annual Amarnath Yatra and all necessary steps have been taken for the smooth conduct of the pilgrimage to the cave shrine located at 3,880 metres in South Kashmir Himalayas.
"... 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," Army Chief General M M Naravane said on Thursday.
He further 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".
The army chief was talking to a select group of journalists after his two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir.
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," he added.
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.
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.
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 militant infrastructure and presence of militants 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 militants 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.
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