Indian Army has asked the Omar Abdullah government to build on the peace dividends this year rather than focus on garnering political points by seeking withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from some regions of Jammu and Kashmir.
Top government sources said Northern Army Commander Lt Gen. KT Parnaik opposed the withdrawal of the AFSPA in his meetings with governor NN Vohra, Abdullah, cabinet secretary Ajit Seth and home secretary RK Singh in Srinagar on Sunday.
He made it clear to Seth and Singh that AFSPA was a Central Act and that the state had no powers to unilaterally withdraw it in an ad-hoc manner.
It is understood that General Parnaik told the Union secretaries that the present peace in the Valley was due to the presence of security forces and it would be impossible for the army to come to the aid at the very last minute if Centre withdraws AFSPA.
The senior officials were sensitised that politically it would be impossible to reimpose the Act if it is withdrawn on extraneous conditions.
In his meeting with Abdullah, Gen. Parnaik gave him the example of Assam, where the Act is in place since 1958 but the Indian Army is in the barracks and only operates when required by the civil authorities. He was told that law and order situation in Imphal, where AFSPA was withdrawn in August 2004, had worsened without the Act.
Gen. Parnaik made it known that army had not operated in Srinagar for the past 15 years but had presence only in Tattoo Ground and Badami Bagh Cantonement. In fact, except in outskirts of Sopore, the army is not operating in any town.
But, the CM remained non-committal to the army commander while the Union secretaries decided to discuss the matter in detail.
Given that both the defence ministry and army are opposed to AFSPA withdrawal, it will be difficult for the Centre to side with Abdullah even though he has the tacit support of Home Minister P Chidambaram.