Army, home ministry differ on Kashmir troop cut

Last Updated 15 January 2011, 15:08 IST

"No person from the home ministry will say about the army as it is under the purview of the defence ministry. I am quite sure that the home secretary knows about it and was talking only about the paramilitary forces," Indian Army Chief General V.K. Singh told reporters here, on the sidelines of the army day parade.

"I think there was some confusion. What Mr. Pillai said was concerning the paramilitary forces. What I was talking of was the army," Singh said.

The army chief's statement comes a day after he, in reaction to Pillai's announcement Friday, had said he didn't feel the move was needed.

The home secretary Friday said the government will reduce by 25 percent the number of security forces in Jammu and Kashmir as part of confidence building measures planned for the state.

The army chief hours had later told reporters that the force didn't feel that "we have to cut down our forces. If they want to cut down paramilitary and police forces, I won't say anything."

Interacting with the media after the military parade here Saturday, Singh said that any decision regarding reduction of the army personnel's strength in the Kashmir Valley would be taken by the Unified Command, a security grid of the army, paramilitary and police forces that is headed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

"Where they (home ministry) want to take out people, it is up to them. Whatever input is required, it will be provided by the Unified Command. I have got no conflict or argument with anybody on this issue," Singh said.

"So far as the army is concerned, I am quite convinced as what the army is supposed to do," he said.

Echoing his chief's views, the army commander in Kashmir said it was not the "right time" to reduce army troops.

"This is not the right time to reduce troops," Northern Command chief Lt. General K.T. Parnaik told media persons on the sidelines of an investiture ceremony in the Akhnoor border town, 30 km north-west of Jammu.

The troops of the Northern Command, headquartered at Udhampur, 66 km north of Jammu, guard the Line of Control (LoC) and international border with Pakistani Kashmir and Pakistan, and Line of Actual Control with China. The troops also are engaged in counter-insurgency operations in the state.

Gen. Parnaik also defended the retention of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that grants legal immunity to troops engaged in anti-terrorism operations. "The army is doing a job and AFSPA is needed. It should not be withdrawn at the moment."

The AFSPA remark also contradicts the home secretary's remarks on the act as Pillai had said that the state police was in consultation with army officers on removing the controversial legislation in parts of the state where militant violence had reduced remarkably.

(Published 15 January 2011, 06:40 IST)

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