No Troop Cut In J-K As Of Now, Says PM
3 March 2007
The Indian Express
Srinagar: There is no move to reduce the number of troops deployed in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said today. This was 'speculation', he told reporters here when asked about moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq's statement that India and Pakistan had agreed to cut down on troops deployed in J&K and Pak- occupied Kashmir (PoK). The Mirwaiz had made the claim in Srinagar yesterday, saying troops would be reduced on either side of the Line of Control (LoC). But the PM reiterated the government's stand on the matter, saying the troops had been deployed to protect people and the government was not averse to reducing troops if terrorism ceased. 'Ours is not an army of occupation, it is there to protect the lives and liberties of law-abiding people,' he told reporters at a book release function. Speaking in Srinagar yesterday, the Mirwaiz had said the two countries had agreed on withdrawal of troops and that this would be the first step towards resolution of the Kashmir issue. He had referred to his meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri in Delhi, saying the Hurriyat delegation had been told India and Pakistan were working out modalities for withdrawal of troops. This, along with revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, would mark the right beginning for a resolution of the Kashmir issue, the moderate Hurriyat leader had said. The Hurriyat statement came even as the People's Democratic Party (PDP), a partner with the Congress in the coalition governing the state, continued making similar demands. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti was in the Capital earlier this week, meeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking reduction in the number of troops saying militancy had come down. The opposition National Conference has, however, criticised the PDP's demand, saying the party had done nothing in this direction when it was heading the government earlier.