India tells Kashmir forces to exercise caution in operations
26 February 2004
The Daily Times
NEW DELHI: India on Thursday issued fresh directions to the armed and paramilitary forces to exercise caution in their operations in Jammu and Kashmir. The directions were issued last night after Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani and Defence Minister George Fernandes met.Indian Army chief General Nirmal Chandra Vij on Thursday chaired a meeting of top army commanders at the Defence Headquarters here and told them to 'tread carefully' in conducting operations in Jammu and Kashmir.The recent spate of custodial deaths and arrests had forced the All Party Hurriyat Conference's (APHC) moderate faction to announce the suspension of dialogue with New Delhi. The People's Political Front (PPF), one of the important participants in the New Delhi-Hurriyat talks, completely pulled out of the dialogue process, saying the government was not serious about the talks.Following these incidents, Defence Headquarters here on Thursday summoned the Srinagar-based 15 Corps Commander Lt Gen Nirbhay Singh, Jammu-based 16 Corps Commander Lt Gen Ashok Kapur and Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Hari Prasad to assess the situation in the state. Sources said they were briefed about fresh government directions. Even State Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed last week had conveyed his concern over the alleged human rights violations and had requested the army to take steps to prevent it.Gen Vij told the commanders not to make life inconvenient for commoners in the conduct of special operations. He, however, said no quarter would be given to Pakistani or local militants operating in the state.At the conference, which army officials called 'routine' to deal with promotions of officers of the level of major generals and lieutenant generals, Gen Vij briefed the top commanders on the deliberations of the recent meeting on Jammu and Kashmir chaired by Mr Advani.Dismissing the Hurriyat's protest against alleged human rights violations, security agencies here claimed that the Hizbul Mujahideen, which has recently suffered setbacks by losing most of its top commanders in the valley, has been in fact exerting pressure on the political leadership to raise the human right violations issue.According to official figures, 167 militants have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir during the past two months, with 86 in January and 77 till date this month.Taking stock of the situation, Gen Vij asked the commanders to 'button up operational requirements', officials said. Asked if the army would be used during elections in the militancy-hit state, officials said only if the state government asked for it.Mr Fernandes said on Wednesday evening after meeting Mr Advani that the armed forces had been told to have the highest regard for human rights and to avoid situations, which hurt the rights of the state's residents. Mr Fernandes at the same time said militants who disrupted law and order would be dealt with sternly.Diplomats here believe that recent incidents in Kashmir could affect the progress of the Indo-Pak bilateral talks as well. They asked New Delhi to implement confidence building measures as promised to the Hurriyat leaders who braved threats and met Mr Advani last month.