Srinagar, May 24: Army chief General Bipin Rawat will embark on a two-day visit to Kashmir on Thursday, his first to Jammu and Kashmir after the Centre asked forces to halt counter-terror operations in the state during the Islamic holy month of Ramzan, senior army officials said on Wednesday.
Rawat’s visit would come a week after the home ministry announced the Ramzan ceasefire with a rider that the security forces reserved the right to retaliate if attacked and also to protect civilians.
Jammu and Kashmir police chief SP Vaid said on Tuesday that the ceasefire was holding in the Valley and there had been a general improvement in the law and order situation.
The army will be carrying out fewer cordon and search operations and search and destroy operations for the one-month period during which counter-terror operations have been halted in the state.
Army officials had earlier flagged concerns about a unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir saying the move might be counter-productive as it could give terror outfits an opportunity to regroup at a time when security forces had an upper hand in the Valley.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, army insiders said a similar experiment launched by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2000 had proved to be a failure. On the eve of Ramzan in November 2000, Prime Minister Vajpayee announced non-initiation of combat operations (NICO) against terrorists in the state. The NICO phase had lasted for six months during which there was no pause in terror activities.
Lieutenant General AK Bhatt, who heads the Srinagar-headquartered 15 Corps will brief the army chief on the security situation in Kashmir during the visit. Rawat will also travel to Pahalgam to inaugurate a facility at the Army Goodwill School there, officials familiar with the matter said.