Young children being radicalised need to be identified and placed in de-radicalisation camps, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat said on Thursday at the Raisina Dialogue, a conclave of global affairs being hosted by India.

Speaking at the event, former army chief Rawat also denied allegations of the Indian military being “heavy-handed” and said the force uses pellet guns “sparingly”.

“Radicalisation can be countered. We saw it happening in Kashmir… Today, we see that young children are also being radicalised. They need to be identified and then we need to put them in de-radicalisation camps. The Indian army has not been using hard tactics… Pellet guns are a non-lethal practice. It is sparingly used,” he said.

Rawat, however, conceded that the terrorism in Kashmir had to be dealt with with a “heavy hand initially”. “But the reason for high casualties in the services is that the first bullet is being taken by soldiers.”

He added that the “ideology of radicalisation” needs to addressed along with an end to “online radicalisation”.

The former army chief, whose tenure saw India’s tensions with Pakistan reach fever pitch, including an aerial confrontation and the brief capture of an Indian Air Force pilot, also batted for emulating the war on terror launched by the US after the 9/11 attacks.

“As long as there are states which sponsor terrorism, we will have to live with the menace. We need to take the bull by its horns and strike at the root cause,” he said in an oblique reference to Pakistan.

“If we think war on terrorism is going to end, we are wrong,” Gen Rawat said. He said the countries which are sponsoring terrorism cannot be part of global fight against terror networks.

“You cannot have partners who are partnering global war on terrorism and yet sponsoring terrorism… There has to be diplomatic isolation of those sponsoring terrorism. Any country which is sponsoring terrorism has to be taken to task,” he said.

Speaking about his new role as the chief of defence staff, India’s first, Rawat said, “I think the task is well cut out and we will be able to function within the firm framework which has been laid out for the CDS. I don’t visualise any problems. We’ve had meetings with the three (service) chiefs and a lot of decisions have already been taken in the past 15 days,” he said

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