Defence Secy's Two Day Visit To J&K From Today
4 July 2007
The Times of India
New Delhi: Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt will tomorrow begin a two-day tour of several districts in Jammu and Kashmir to assess whether the security situation is conducive to a 'relocation and reconfiguration' of troops in the militancy-hit State. Dutt, accompanied by senior officials of Central paramilitary forces and bureaucrats from the Home and Defence Ministries, will visit areas affected by terrorist violence, including Rajouri and Doda in the Jammu region and Kupwara, Baramulla and Awantipura in the Kashmir region. He will hold consultations with Army Commanders in these areas before chairing a high-level meeting of officials in Srinagar on July 6. This meeting, the second in a series, will be attended by Lt Gen S K Sekhon, the Srinagar-based Corps Commander, top brass of the CRPF and BSF, State police chief Gopal Sharma and senior officials of the Intelligence Bureau. The first meeting of this panel, announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on March 30, was held here on May 23. In that meet, the State Government had opposed any move to alter the security network in the State. State Chief Secretary C Phunsog has been invited as a special representative to the second meeting, which comes four days ahead of the Prime Minister's short visit to Jammu to receive a doctorate degree from Jammu University on July 10. Dutt heads an expert panel constituted by the Prime Minister on March 30 to carry out an in-depth assessment of the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir and to determine whether there is any need to relocate and reconfigure security forces in the State. The PDP, Congress' coalition partner in the State, has been demanding the thinning of security forces in civilian areas as a 'confidence-building' measure to help solve the Kashmir issue. The move has been opposed by security forces who fear it could dilute their 'area domination' and give a free run to militants in the Kashmir valley. The panel headed by the Defence Secretary has to ensure that cardinal aspects of security are not compromised in any manner, sources here said. The panel will submit its suggestions to a high-powered committee chaired by Defence Minister A K Antony and comprising representatives of Central and State Governments. The meeting in Srinagar will also discuss the report of the Unified Command, chaired by Home Minister Shivraj Patil last week, which highlighted that infiltration has increased with militants entering the State by cutting the barbed wire fencing along the Line of Control at several places. The Centre, while announcing the formation of the panel headed by the Defence Secretary to study the PDP's demand, had made it clear that it would go by professional advice from the Army on the issue of relocating troops in Kashmir.