If people are ready to accept ‘mistakes, collateral damage’, ready to use drones in Kashmir, across LoC: Indian Army Chief

Srinagar: The Indian Army Chief has said that if people and the international community is willing to accept ‘mistakes’ and ‘collateral damage’, the Indian army is capable of using drones to attack hostile targets inside Jammu and Kashmir and across the Line of Control.

According to a report in the Wire,  Army Chief Bipin Rawat was responding to a question about India following the example of the United States in using strike drones. India has not used air power in domestic counter-insurgency operations since the 1960s, largely out of concern over civilian casualties.

“There is just no problem in using these kind of weapons” on either the Indian side of the Line of Control or in Pakistan-occupied territory, said General Rawat – so long as there was no backlash in public opinion or from the international community.”

Rawat said this while delivering the ninth Y.B. Chavan Memorial Lecture at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi. His subject was ‘hybrid conflict’.

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While responding to a question after his prepared lecture, regarding drone strikes, Rawat said:

“When you talk of strike drones, how does the Israeli strike the Hezbollah – how do they do it? You see, they have sources on the ground, who pinpoint a vehicle – who say that, this is a vehicle in which a leader has just come out of a house, and somebody has just given the information. They electronically mark that vehicle.

“That vehicle gets marked. And now a drone takes off in the air, and hits that vehicle. God help you if you’re in the following vehicle – you’re also gone.

“Now, this kind of thing is possible in that area – in that country. In our country, you’ve seen the kind of repercussions… the kind of flak that you face when you take such action even against a stone-thrower, who’s carrying out offensive action against you.

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“In our country, the way things are moving, it’s very nice to say we need these drones. But will you accept mistakes being committed by such weapons systems? You have to accept it. If the nation will spare us, for the kind of mistakes that may get committed using such kind of weapons, then I think we can take a call.”

However, the officer who asked the question rephrased it and said that he meant striking ‘across the LoC and kill the leaders.’

Rawat replied: “You see, across also there can be mistakes. Either way, whether in your territory or the territory across, there will be mistakes. So if we are willing to accept these mistakes, and we feel that there will be no repercussions, there will be no backlash, there is a way forward.

“It’s not to say that we can’t use it. That is the reason why we are trying to procure these weapons. But these weapons are being procured more for… not for the hybrid warfare systems, we’re looking at it from the conventional war… but yes, anything that we procure has got dual use.

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“But the first issue is of collateral damage. We get so concerned. In your own nation, your people get concerned about collateral damage so much – when you are fighting this kind of warfare, I think you have to accept that collateral damage will happen. It is war. If that is something which we can accept, then there is just no problem in using these kind of weapons.

“But can we accept it. Will the international community get after us? Or will they spare us in case mistakes happen? That is a call we have to take. Otherwise there is just no problem in using it.”

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