Lifting AFSPA From Valley Not An Option, Venkaiah Naidu Says

19 February 2015
Times of India

New Delhi: As negotiations between BJP and PDP continue on the contentious issues of Article 370 and Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) before the two agree to form the government in Jammu and Kashmir, Union minister Venkaiah Naidu has hinted that while the former could be discussed, the latter was non-negotiable. The two parties are currently discussing a common minimum programme to formalize the alliance and form a government. Sources said the discussions were stuck on the issues of abrogation of Article 370 and removal of AFSPA from the Valley. While BJP has been pushing for the former, PDP has been batting for the latter. Parliamentary affairs minister Naidu on Thursday hinted that while the party could consider PDP's demands on Article 370 given the electoral reality, it would not compromise on AFSPA as it was not just the Army which was a stakeholder in the issue but 'the entire country'. Talking to a TV channel, Naidu said, 'We have to understand the reality. People have given a fractured mandate. We are not in a majority. Discussions on Article 370 will keep sensitivities of Kashmir in mind.' On PDP's demand for removal of AFSPA from the Valley and opposition from Army being a factor, Naidu said, 'It's not just the Army which is a stakeholder in the issue. The entire country is. It's an issue dear to all Indians. There are 40 terror camps operating. We cannot withdraw AFSPA.' Naidu said he was sure that those negotiating with PDP would make the party understand the issue. The assertion comes a day after Mufti Mohammed Sayeed hinted that there could be no deal with BJP if the latter did not agree to his party's demands on Article 370 and AFSPA. Removal of AFSPA was PDP's poll promise while abrogation of Article 370 is an issue not agreeable to any party in the Valley.