Army to seek PM's support on AFSPA | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Army to seek PM's support on AFSPA

With pressure mounting on the Centre for a partial removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from at least downtown Srinagar, the army brass is set to approach Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for support on the sensitive issue. Shishir Gupta reports.

delhi Updated: Dec 03, 2011 00:24 IST
Shishir Gupta

With pressure mounting on the Centre for a partial removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from at least downtown Srinagar, the army brass is set to approach Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for support on the sensitive issue.

The army plans to apprise the PM in writing that lifting the AFSPA would go against security interests in the strife-torn Jammu and Kashmir. The army's view has been supported by defence minister AK Antony.

Top government sources said the army had suggested at intra-government discussions that it could withdraw from the earmarked areas to push the political initiative without the AFSPA being lifted from those areas.

The army wants the controversial AFSPA to stay in areas from where troops have withdrawn so that they can easily be inducted for anti-terror operations whenever needed.

The army has cited the example of Assam where troops are not present in huge swathes of territory where the AFSPA has been in force since 1958.

Top officers of the Northern Army Command believe that huge protests would be orchestrated in the Kashmir Valley if the AFSPA were to be re-imposed after being lifted from certain areas.

The internal security establishment wants to give a dividend of peace by limited withdrawal of AFSPA.

According to the latest proposal discussed by the two stakeholders, there is no need for the law to be lifted from all of Srinagar but only from the downtown area, where the army wasn't sent even during peak of militancy in 1990s.

Officials argue that this is the best time to push for confidence-building measures in the Valley as the total number of terrorists is down to around 350 due to army action on infiltrators.

"As the army has never operated and is unlikely to operate in future, there is no harm in lifting the AFSPA from three police station areas in downtown Srinagar," said a senior official.

The army is not enthused by the MHA's latest suggestion. It feels that areas from where the law would be lifted, could become safe havens for cross-border terrorists.