Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday made it clear that the government could not reduce troops in Jammu and Kashmir unless terrorist acts ceased.
Singh also dismissed reported claims by Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq that Delhi and Islamabad had agreed to reduce troops in Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. "These are all speculation," he said to a question on the claim.
The Prime Minister made it clear that security forces had been deployed only to protect citizens and was not “an army of occupation”. Singh’s remarks came on the sidelines of a function at his residence to release a book on India’s cultural heritage.
"We will be happy to reduce troops if terrorism ceases as our army is not an army of occupation,” Singh said, pointing that the army was in the state “to protect the lives and liberties of law-abiding people”.
The statement came in the backdrop of the People's Democratic Party, the Congress' ally in Jammu and Kashmir's ruling coalition, making a strong pitch for reduction of troops.
The PDP had recently met central leaders including the Prime Minister to seek a reduction in troop level commensurate with the decline in militancy in the state. The meetings followed a tense stand off between the PDP and Congress after chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad turned down her demand for a special meeting of the State Cabinet.
Azad insisted there was no scope for further discussion after he had spoken his mind on the subject in the legislative council; he had ruled out troop reduction or revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the state. The chief minister holds the view that the ground situation was not yet ripe for such steps that could lives of the people at risk.