Jammu And Kashmir: Centre May Withdraw Army, Not AFSPA

Jammu And Kashmir: Centre May Withdraw Army, Not AFSPA

15 November 2011
India Today
Aman Sharma & Gautam Dutt

New Delhi: Omar Abdullah 's lobbying notwithstanding, Jammu and Kashmir may have to wait till the end of 2012 summer before a partial withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA ) is considered. The Centre is instead veering towards the idea of pulling out the army from several towns of the state without revoking the AFSPA, so that the troops can be redeployed, if need be. Top sources in the government said it could adopt the middle path to mollify both the army and the Omar government over the issue. More consultations will be carried out on AFSPA withdrawal in the meantime and at the end of the 2012 summer, a re-assessment of the ground situation would be done, a source suggested. The army's case is that once the AFSPA is withdrawn from an area, it would be 'politically' difficult to re-impose the Act if trouble on the terror front arose again. There will be a massive public outburst against any such move and the state government would not be able to handle it. 'Pakistan's ISI and terror outfits will use this window of non-AFSPA period to consolidate in these areas. If the Act is not withdrawn and the troops only return to the barracks, they can be re- deployed within minutes,' a defence source said. This argument is finding resonance within the central government. The move to put off the withdrawal of the contentious law for now reflected in the statements coming from the government on Monday. Defence minister A. K. Antony, whom Omar met a day before, made it clear that no time- limit could be put on AFSPA withdrawal. He also termed his meeting with the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister on the issue as inconclusive. 'On our side, my opinion is that this (AFSPA) being a very, very sensitive issue, let us handle it in a very mature and cool manner. Inter-governmental consultations are taking place and discussions on the issue will continue. Considering that the infiltration attempts from across the border are continuing, we have to be careful 24- 7,' Antony said. Omar met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and home minister P. Chidambaram on Monday in his effort to convince the members of the cabinet committee on security (CCS) on the AFSPA issue. After meeting Chidambaram, he, however, did not press upon the urgency of revoking the Act as he did last month, when he promised its withdrawal in some areas within a few days. Omar conceded that more discussions were required. 'This will conclude my first round of discussions with the members of the CCS. These discussions will continue. If necessary, I will meet them again. My effort is to reach the goal of partial withdrawal of the AFSPA and simultaneously allay the apprehensions of the armed forces,' he said. The CM reiterated that he was advocating AFSPA removal only in areas where the troops do not operate. 'I am not in the business of playing politics with national security,' Omar said. 'The effort is to narrow the differences between what we would like to see happening, and what the qrmy has so far as publicly stated...' The army is dead against AFSPA withdrawal. It contends that going by past experience, one peaceful summer can't be the benchmark to revoke the Act. It also argues that in the wake of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan is sure to become more adventurous in Kashmir. In fact, sources said there is an intelligence input that the ISI feels it can create enough trouble to force India to cede Kashmir by 2016 if the Act is revoked.


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