Speaking at a symposium on the “Way forward in Kashmir” organised by Jamia Millia Islamia University here, Union Home Secretary Gopal Pillai said cutting down on the number of troops in the state, especially in the violence-racked Kashmir region, will not impact on the Army’s dominant role, an indication that the Centre plans to pull out Central paramilitary forces.
Even as Pillai declared the government’s plan, Army chief General V K Singh said the Army’s presence would continue since its deployment is based on threat perception, and that troop reduction may involve the police and paramilitary forces.
The government has already reduced the presence of forces from Srinagar where, the home secretary said, “the local police should be able to handle the situation.” Pointing out that troops reduction was “one of our confidence building measures”, Pillai said the government “will make sure that all the forces are position on the border to prevent infiltration”.
After more than four months of confrontation between stone-throwing protesters and security forces in Kashmir, the Centre announced a “peace” package, including economic aid, a call for easing security strictures and a new political dialogue.
Given the sensitivities on the presence of the Central Reserve Police force (CRPF), the Centre plans to gradually replace it with the local police. The state government is already training over 100 local police battalions and more recruitment was under way in the Kashmir valley.
A 12-month time-frame has been set for such a significant level of reduction in Central para-military forces from the insurgency-infested state. The step is seen as a part of fulfiling the eight-point peace offensive announced by the Centre following a visit of an all-party delegation to the state.
Commenting on the broader situation prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir, Pillai said negotiations were on to work out a political solution which should be to the satisfaction of other regions like Ladakh and Jammu.
He added that the three interlocutors appointed by the Centre have been asked to give their final set of proposals for a political solution by April.
Mixed response to troop reduction
The Centre’s on troop reduction has evoked a mixed response in the Valley, DHNS reports from Srinagar. Pointing out that troop reduction must not be a cosmetic exercise, Leader of Opposition in the Assembly and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said: “It must be implemented on the ground. The government failed to implement the eight-point formula announced earlier.” Chairman of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, described the move as a step in the right direction, provided it was based on sincerity. However, hard line separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani rejected the announcement.