New Delhi: The Indian army is capable of using drones to attack hostile targets inside Jammu and Kashmir and across the Line of Control, and sees “no problem” in using them provided the nation is willing to accept “mistakes” and “collateral damage”, army chief Bipin Rawat said on Wednesday.

He 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.

The army chief delivered the ninth Y.B. Chavan Memorial Lecture at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in the capital. His subject was ‘hybrid conflict’ – a term that describes a range of hostile strategies that a belligerent can use in place of conventional warfare, especially against an enemy with a strong conventional military advantage.

The lecture focused on the threat of hybrid warfare aimed at India, mainly by Pakistan. He underscored the use of social media for one hybrid threat – the radicalisation of young people in Kashmir – and sketched out the need for “proactive defence”.

‘If the nation will spare us’

After his prepared lecture, General Rawat took questions from the audience. His full remarks in reply to the question on drones were as follows

“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. “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.” (Inputs From The Wire)