CRPF's lead role in J&K may end soon

Resolution of Kashmir should be in accordance with people's wishes: US

CRPF's lead role in J&K may end soon

The UPA government’s decision to withdraw the CRPF from performing law and order duties in the state, which has been on the boil for the past two weeks since the alleged rape and murder of two Kashmiri women from Shopian, comes two days after the Pakistani establishment announced it was prepared to extend an olive branch – a signal that it was keen to resume the dialogue process with India.

Announcing the Centre’s plans to remove the CRPF from performing law and order duties in Jammu and Kashmir, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said he would like the paramilitary forces to play a secondary role in the border state.

The decision to soon launch an exercise which would see the J&K police play a primary role and gradually replace the CRPF was taken at a meeting of the Unified Headquarters here.

The meeting, chaired by Chidambaram, was attended, among others, by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, representatives of the Army, Central paramilitary forces, intelligence agencies and the state police.

US push

What makes Chidambaram’s announcement significant is it came the same day the United States pushed for resumption of Indo-Pak dialogue while emphasising that a resolution of the Kashmir issue should take into account the “wishes” of the people of the state.

Following discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, US Under-Secretary of State William Burns said at a press conference in New Delhi that the “pace, scope and character” of the Indo-Pak dialogue, suspended since the Mumbai terror attacks, be decided by the leaders of the two countries.

Burns, the first high-ranking US official to visit India after the recent elections, handed over a letter from President Barack Obama to Singh but declined to divulge its content. In response to a question on Kashmir, Burns said, “It remains our view that resolution of the Kashmir issue has to take into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people.”

While interacting with the media, Chidambaram said infiltration bids were still being made by Pakistan-backed terrorists, adding that such attempts have to be foiled at the earliest. In this context, the Home minister said “troop reduction is only possible when there is improvement in situation. Let the situation improve further, the number of security men would be decreased accordingly”.

This is not the first time that the Centre has decided to withdraw security forces from counter-terrorism duties. The NDA government had first withdrawn the Army from internal security functions, using only the Rashtriya Rifles for the purpose. Subsequently, the BSF was also removed from counter-terrorism duties and redeployed to perform its original function as a border guarding force.

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