Ahead of a key meeting of the cabinet committee on security (CCS) to discuss the Maoist threat, Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Tuesday met the three service chiefs and discussed national security with them, even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated elsewhere that the writ of the state would be enforced firmly.
“In dealing with the challenge of Naxalism, we will pursue a policy that genuinely seeks to address developmental concerns at the grassroots, while firmly enforcing the writ of the State,” Singh said, speaking at a function to mark the first anniversary of his government.
The defence minister’s meeting with the service chiefs comes at a time when, following a series of recent and deadly Naxal attacks, the possible role the military could play in curbing this menace has been much debated.
The defence minister is understood to have discussed the possible role of the armed forces in controlling Naxal violence with the service chiefs. Wednesday's CCS meet is likely to review the government's current anti-Naxal strategy.
Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram will be in Chhattisgarh, the epicenter of Naxal violence on Wednesday to take stock of the situation.
Antony and the three chiefs are believed to have weighed the pros and cons of a possible deployment of the armed forces in the fight against Naxals.
The defence ministry and the armed forces have so far been reluctant to get directly involved.
With Naxal violence reaching menacing proportions, however, the armed forces are gearing up to provide additional support to paramilitary forces in Maoist zones.
The army’s involvement so far has been limited to training personnel from central police organisations. It has trained 46,343 men.
The army has proposed setting up a dedicated centre to train only paramilitary personnel in tackling terrorists, modelled on the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) at Vairengte in Mizoram.
In the fight against Naxals, the Air Force’s Mi-17 helicopters are currently being used for casualty evacuation, ferrying security personnel and carrying out reconnaissance.