As a debate rages over a partial withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Jammu and Kashmir, defence minister AK Antony on Friday said the Unified Command in the state would take the final call on the issue.
"The Cabinet Committee on Security had last year decided to leave it to the Unified Command to take a decision on partial withdrawal of AFSPA in the state," Antony said.
The minister's comments come in the wake of a stepped-up campaign by J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah, who chairs the Unified Command, to withdraw the controversial Act from some parts of the state.
Abdullah had on Thursday asserted that he had the authority to revoke the AFSPA, drawing sharp reaction from military sources in Kashmir that the army might suspend counter-terrorism operations if the state government repealed the law unilaterally.
The army has signaled its unwillingness to accept any changes in the AFSPA, arguing that phased withdrawal of the law would upset the security architecture in the state.
"It will be untenable for us to conduct operations in the state if the AFSPA is tinkered with. Piecemeal removal of the
Act will impinge on our operations. We will have to rethink how we can operate in such a scenario," a senior officer said on the condition of anonymity, given the sensitive nature of the issue.
The Act, often described as draconian, bestows sweeping powers on the security forces and prohibits prosecutions against soldiers in J&K without the Centre's nod, if the allegations are linked to the public duty of the accused.
Another officer said if the Act was removed from a certain pocket, it would have a bearing on the army's ability to operate seamlessly. "The dynamics of proxy war in the state also have to be understood before making any changes," he said.