M A I N   N E W S

PM orders reduction of troops in Jammu and Kashmir
Rajeev Sharma and Girja Shankar Kaur
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 11
On Divali eve and 12 days before the arrival of Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz here, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh exploded a bomb of peace when he ordered the reduction of troops deployed in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Tribune understands that the reduction of troops would be small.

However, the Prime Minister shrewdly sugarcoated the bitter pill when he did not quantify the reduction and left none in doubt that the move was confined to “this winter” only — when snow-bound passes make infiltration impossible — and that the decision would be kept under “constant review”.

The announcement came this evening after a 30-minute-long meeting of the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS), chaired by the Prime Minister.

Mr Munawwar Bhatti, Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan, told The Tribune that the UPA government’s decision was “a move in the right direction”.

In the statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) it was made very clear that decision to reduce the deployment would be kept under “constant review” and if the levels of infiltration and terrorist violence increase, more troops as necessary would be redeployed.

The three-paragraph statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser Sanjay Baru, said: “During the past several months, the Indian Army and other security forces deployed in the state of Jammu and Kashmir have achieved success in bringing about an improvement in the security situation in the state. Effective counter-infiltration measures and mobilising the support of the people in the war against terrorism have led to a visible improvement in the situation. This is reflected in the increased tempo of economic activity, continuing increase in tourist arrivals, and a general sense of security among the people.

“In recognition of the improvement in the situation in the state, the government has decided to reduce the deployment of troops this winter.

“We cannot, however, afford to relax our vigil. We are aware that infiltration attempts from across the border and the Line of Control continue and the infrastructure of terrorism in the shape of training camps and launching bases remain intact. The decision to reduce the deployment of troops would therefore be kept under constant review. If the levels of infiltration and terrorist violence increase, more troops as necessary will be redeployed.”

The decision comes barely a day after the Home Minister’s one-to-one meeting with the Prime Minister last evening where Mr Patil had presented his assessment of the political and law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

The announcement from the Prime Minister also comes just days ahead of his visit to Jammu and Kashmir, where he is expected to announce some more sops for the State. Prime Minister is due to visit Jammu and Kashmir on November 17 and 18.

Pak welcomes move

Pakistan has welcomed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s decision to cut troops in Jammu and Kashmir in winter saying it was a “step in the right direction.” — PTI

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