M A I N   N E W S

Armed forces Special Powers Act in J&K to stay
Troops not to be reduced
TNS and Agencies

Srinagar, June 30
Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee today ruled out scrapping of legislation according unfettered powers to the security forces in countering extremist violence till terrorism continued in the state.

“We cannot think of doing away with the Armed Forces (J & K) Special Powers Act, 1990 till terrorism completely put down in Jammu and Kashmir”, Mr Mukherjee told mediapersons here at the conclusion of his first two-day visit to the state.

He said crossborder terrorism continued in the state even though ceasefire along the Line of Control and tight vigilance by troops had checked infiltration as well as exfiltration along the borders.

He ruled out any immediate reduction of troops from the borders.

Mr Mukherjee said the borders were completely safe.

Regarding Pakistan not allowing fencing of the borders in the past, the Defence Minister said, “this too indicates that we are now moving towards a positive direction.”

“But I would not like to jump to any conclusion right now,” he added.

Asked if fencing will completely stop infiltration, he said this was one of the mechanism. “It will help,” he added.

“Militants strike a soft target when an international personality is to visit India or any other Indian leader has to visit Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.

“They kill people when a new government assumes office,” he said, adding militants just want to give signals that they are there.

“The incidents of violence clearly demonstrate that the militant threat is still there and we never claimed that we have completely eliminated them,” he said.

Asked whether the government was planning to reopen the probe into Kargil intrusion, Mr Mukherjee replied in the negative.

A commission had been appointed which submitted its report and some action has been taken as well. “We have no plan to reopen the probe,” he added.

Asked if the Ministry was planning to raise Gujjar Scouts on the pattern of Ladakh Scouts in the Army, he said certain battalions had already been raised and been rightly named as home and hearth force in which locals will be recruited for security of their areas.

On the status of the Bagga commission, he said he had not seen the file yet.

The Defence Minister was accompanied by Chief of Army Staff General N.C. Vij and General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Northern Command Lt-Gen Hari Prasad on his visit to the state.

Lauding the Army for almost completing border fencing in Jammu and Kashmir, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that there was no increase in infiltration this year compared to corresponding period last year.

He said the fencing, ceasefire, resumption of talks and other peace initiatives between India and Pakistan would further defuse tension and improve relations for a peaceful atmosphere. “I do hope this ceasefire which began in November last year has created a good atmosphere”, Mr Mukherjee said. He added that peace initiatives with the resumption of talks and other confidence building measures “may defuse the tension”. “Our armed forces are alert and vigilant. I hope there will be no further escalation in terrorist activities”, Mr Mukherjee commented.

Mr Mukherjee was talking to mediapersons at the old airport here this afternoon at the end of his maiden two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir. He visited forward posts and addressed troops at Uri this morning, after he had covered a number of areas and overseen fencing along the IB and LoC since yesterday.

Mr Pranab Mukherjee said that there had been positive and “encouraging” signals from the other side of the border as well. He said that beginning of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service and other confidence building measures were also important to improve relations. Mr Mukherjee added that border fencing would help prevent infiltration to a great extent.

The Defence Minister said that there were some infiltrators ready to cross over to this side, but added that with the border fencing, alertness and vigil of the troops it would be difficult for them to cross over. He added that at the same time no country would claim that it was supporting cross-border terrorism.

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