With the Kashmir valley witnessing a record number of tourists this year, even the army seems to have softened its stand on withdrawal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from two "most peaceful" districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
AFSPA might be revoked from Srinagar and Jammu districts by next year, sources said and added that the army was likely to convey the same to the defence ministry soon.
The law was imposed in the entire state during the early years of militancy. Chief minister Omar Abdullah has been campaigning for its revocation from four districts: Srinagar and Budgam in Kashmir region and Jammu and Kathua in Jammu region. Army has so far opposed the idea.
Officials said Abdullah had got a green signal from home minister P Chidambaram on the issue though the latter was cautious owing to opposition from the army.
"So many tourists are coming to the valley and revocation of the law in Srinagar and Jammu seems inevitable now," an official who did not wish to be quoted told Hindustan Times.
The change in army stance on AFSPA had come about after a meeting between Abdullah and new Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Bikram Singh last month in Srinagar, during the General's two day visit to the state.
According to reports, Abdullah has "convinced the army top brass about the drastic decline in militancy in J&K and said that the presence of army in civilian areas can sometimes result in unnecessary friction".
Owing to varied opinions regarding the issue, the state government had last year set up three committees to see whether time was conducive for the withdrawal of AFSPA from certain areas of the state.
While two committees headed by army officials had objected to the withdrawal, the committee set up by the state Director General of Police had supported the withdrawal, but with a precondition of giving "more teeth to the local police".
While the ruling National Conference refused to comment on the issue, army spokesman in Srinagar, Col JS Brar said he was not "aware of any such developments".
"Our opinion has been forwarded to the defence ministry long back and it's for the government to take a call on this," said Brar.