M A I N   N E W S

5,000 troops pulled out from J&K
More withdrawals soon: Pranab
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 6
In an apparent gesture to Pakistan to further come forward with confidence-building measures (CBMs), the government has allowed the Army to move a brigade (about 5,000) troops from Jammu and Kashmir following “much improvement” in the situation there.

While there had been reports about a possible back movement of troops, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee today confirmed it on the sidelines of a seminar being conducted to mark the 56th anniversary of the Territorial Army. He said there could be more “redeployment” if violence further decreased.

Reports suggested that the total number of troops which could be moved out of the state over the next few weeks could be as much as 12,000.

“It is not withdrawal but redeployment of forces from Jammu and Kashmir to the North-East as the violence level has come down,” he told reporters. This is the second time that India has pulled out troops from Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier, the troops had been redeployed following an announcement made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November 2004 before his visit to the state.

To queries whether the exercise was timed to coincide with the visit of US President George W. Bush to the country, Mr Mukherjee said it was a routine exercise. “The redeployment is a regular exercise undertaken after review of the situation in the state. Last year, we had reduced troops voluntarily.”

The Chief of Army Staff, Gen J. J. Singh, said a brigade had been moved out from the south of Pir Panjal and redeployed at locations in Darjeeling and Kalimpong in the North-East.

Further de-induction could take place if there was improvement in the situation in the state, he said, adding that more forces, which had been shifted from the frontier region of Ladakh to the valley, had also moved back.

The General, however, clarified that the movement of troops out of the state was nothing but adjustment. “We had moved a brigade level force from 27 Mountain Division located in Kalimpong in Darjeeling district during Operation Vijay and these formations have shifted back to restore the balance,” he said.

The Chief of Army Staff said the exercise had been undertaken after a comprehensive review of the situation in the state. However, he pointed out that there would be no lowering of guard in the state.

“There would not be any lowering of guard. We have force levels in Jammu and Kashmir to ensure maximum flexibility in the conduct of counter-insurgency operations,” he said.

He added that the force levels could always be decreased and increased in short time, depending on the situation. Though the Army, citing operational security, does not give out the number of troops deployed in Jammu and Kashmir, estimates put it between 30 and 45 brigades.

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