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Jun 17, 2007 at 12:17pm IST

No mercy, Army out to kill 'softly'

New Delhi: At a time when security forces the world over are under scrutiny for alleged excesses in battling terrorists, the Indian Army has announced a set of guiding principles for conducting military operations among civil society.

Lessons learnt in five decades of scrapping with a clandestine enemy have been compressed into a counter-terrorist doctrine.

With this first-of-its-kind doctrine, the Army has declared that it's ready to change the way it does its business among India's own people.

The promise of the use of minimum force is at the heart of this doctrine.

"The principle is minimum adequate force. That is the thread that runs through this doctrine,” says former Kashmir commander, Lt Gen (Retd) VG Patankar.

The message to troops is that high-handedness will not be acceptable. The emphasis on causing minimum collateral damage and winning hearts and minds has been cast in stone.

"Sanctity of religious places like mosques and idgahs need to be treated with deference. Many times, the terrorists would go and hide themselves in mosques, and we would take the help of the local people,” says Patankar.

The earlier stress on kills has been discarded. So, does the doctrine suggest a gentler army?

Not really for the enemy who must expect no mercy. Under the Army's velvet glove, an iron fist is clearly showing.

"It is taaqat (might) and tehzeeb (etiquette). Taaqat with the enemy and tehzeeb with your own people,” says Patankar.

Army Chief General J J Singh began his tenure two years ago by famously forbidding his troops from using hunting terminology while dealing with militants.

The idea was to de-emphasise kills as the primary way of putting down terrorism.

The change in approach continues, with the General now laying down the templates for the way the Army must do its business among its own people.