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Revoking AFSPA will aid Kashmir terror groups: Army chief

Sunday January 01, 2012 05:50:28 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: Indian Army chief Gen V.K. Singh has opposed the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from parts of Jammu and Kashmir anytime soon, saying this could result in the "emergence of terror sanctuaries and safe havens".

He said one summer of peace does not mean normalcy has returned to the troubled border state and warned that if the contentious special powers are withdrawn, the army would feel constrained in operating against terror groups if the situation deteriorates.

"The partial revocation of AFSPA will result in the emergence of sanctuaries and safe havens for terrorists while the army will be constrained from operating against them," Singh said in an interview in the coming issue of the defence ministry's official organ Sainik Samachar.

He also noted that there were issues regarding the "safety" of army personnel, company operating bases, units, installations, headquarters located in non-AFSPA areas and protection of convoys moving through them.

"One should not view the security situation of reduced violence in one summer, but allow consolidation of the gains made, before taking a call on revocation of AFSPA," he said to a question on why the army is opposing the partial withdrawal of the law from Jammu and Kashmir.

"Just one summer of peace does not mean normalcy," he added.

Singh also pointed out that though the army did not operate in some parts of Kashmir now, it could be called upon to do so if required in those areas too since AFSPA is still applicable.

"If AFSPA is revoked, the army will not have the legal protection to operate even if the situation goes bad. Diluting AFSPA in any form will be, therefore, detrimental to the national interest," he said.

Placing the blame for the violence in Jammu and Kashmir at the doorstep of Pakistan, the army chief said the state has been affected by the neighbouring country-sponsored proxy war over the last two decades.

"Though quantum of violence has decreased, the terror infrastructure in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir remains intact. The support of Pakistan establishment in aiding and abetting the terrorists continues unabated," he said.

"The security forces are combating heavily armed and trained terrorists. The operational flexibility of the troops will be severely restricted and efforts to further stabilise and consolidate the situation in Jammu and Kashmir will receive a setback," he added.

The issue of partial withdrawal of AFSPA was raised by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in the middle of last year, citing the decreasing violence in some districts of the state. He also received support from Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

However, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and the armed forces have opposed the move tooth and nail, resulting in the central and the state governments agreeing to discuss the issue further before a decision is taken on the revocation of the law that some human rights activists dub as "draconian".






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