At the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare (CIJW) School at Vairengte in Mizoram, part of the training is increasingly focusing on training soldiers in winning hearts and minds and keeps collateral damage in interfaces with civilians down to the minimum. These are critical skills in these days of global terror.
Around half of the army's on-field forces are deployed on counter insurgency duty. CIJW School in Vairengte is teaching soldiers special skills indispensable in fighting terror in civilian areas like the north east or Jammu and Kashmir. While the physical and tactical aspects of training test the tenacity of a soldier in the most adverse conditions, these skills are equally important.
Major General MS Ghura VSM, Commandant of the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School says, "We must be able to keep the 'Awaam' or the population on our own side and thereafter isolate the terrorists and then do counter terrorism operations against them, eliminate/get them back to the mainstream, with minimum collateral damage and minimum casualties to troops."
The exercises that the soldiers go through are grueling and the physical training rigorous to ensure that the soldiers deployed on counter insurgency are capable of success in the most extreme conditions that they are faced with. But the training to tackle civilian interface in difficult operations is key as terrorists often disguise themselves as civilians and in many cases force civilians to support and protect them.
Which is why, even when there is a clear and present threat, the focus is, minimize collateral damage and defend civilians from terrorists so that the army has the support of the local population which is key in tackling a counter insurgency.
"Winning hearts and minds are to ensure that the local populations where we operate are with us and the government and not with the terrorists. Certain amount of security is built into this. We've changed ourselves as per the needs of the people," Major General MS Ghura VSM, adds.
For the army this training and preparation is critical in conflict situations that require a lot more than just a military victory.