Kashmir cabinet to study AFSPA's continuance
The Jammu and Kashmir cabinet is
likely to meet Monday to examine the situation with the Armed
Forces Special Powers Act still in force in the state, despite
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's declaration in October that it
would go "within days
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special powers are withdrawn, the army would feel constrained in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
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".