New Delhi: Steadfast
over the demand for withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers
Act (AFSPA) from his state, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar
Abdullah sounded positive after his meeting with Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P. Chidambaram here Monday,
saying the two leaders were "receptive" to his idea.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who met the chief minister here
Sunday on the issue, said his talks were "inconclusive" and called
for a "matured and cool" handling of the "sensitive" issue of
The Indian Army has said it would be difficult to fight insurgency
in those parts of the state from where the law that provides it
sweeping powers is withdrawn.
Emerging out of Chidambaram's office in North Block here earlier
in the day, Abdullah said: "Partial withdrawal was one of the
number of issues I discussed with the home minister."
The chief minister said he was in the process of meeting members
of the cabinet committee on security.
"I met the PM, the home minister," he said, adding: "I have made
my point clear. This is an ongoing process. The PM and the home
minister were receptive."
On Sunday, the chief minister met Defence Minister A.K. Antony at
his residence here to discuss the proposal that has been strongly
opposed by the army.
Antony, asked about the meeting, said he held a "very frank and
very friendly" discussion on the AFSPA issue with Abdullah, but
the talks were "inconclusive."
"Discussions will continue. Inside the government also, we are
continuing the discussion. That's all," he told reporters here on
the sidelines of a defence event.
Asked if a decision will come within this week on the matter, his
curt response was "don't put any time limits".
Antony said he had already expressed his opinion on the issue many
times. "This being a very, very sensitive issue, let us handle it
in a very, very matured and cool manner. I do not want to enter
into a public controversy or public debate on this very sensitive
issue," he added.
On the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the defence
minister said it was "much better" now. "But considering the
attempts at infiltration from across the border continuing, we
have to be careful 24X7," he added.
Abdullah said his meetings since Sunday were his first round of
discussion with the prime minister and his four big ministers in
He stressed the meetings were to "narrow differences with what we
want to happen and what the army has publicly stated".
Asked about militants daring the government to remove the act, the
chief minister said they would not want it to happen.
"We are talking about those areas where there is no army. Let them
do whatever they want. They don't want the act to be removed. They
are threatening you," he said.
Kashmir's main ruling party, the National Conference, Abdullah
himself, and the principal opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)
favour the revocation of AFSPA from parts of the state.
However, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, the Congress,
has said "sufficient consultations" were not held before Abdullah
proposed the idea a few weeks ago.
The union home ministry is also believed to be in favour of
partial lifting of the AFSPA.