PM to consider troops cut in J&K
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday declared his Government's readiness to talk to terrorist groups if they shun the path of violence and terror and said it could consider reduction of troops in Jammu and Kashmir once terrorism comes "under control".
"Anybody who shuns violence and gives up the path of terror, we are willing to find ways and means to interact with all such groups," Singh told reporters before winding up his two-day visit during which he attended the second Roundtable Conference on Kashmir.
To a question on Hurriyat Conference and other separatist groups staying away from the roundtable, the Prime Minister said he has "not lost hope" and that was confident that "all those who are for a peaceful solution to the problem faced by the state will work together."
On the possibility of reduction of troops in the state, Singh said "our troops are here to protect the life and liberty of our citizens."
The Prime Minister said if terrorism decreases, "there is no reason for us to keep the armed forces in same number" and the matter is being constantly looked into by the Government.
"We have security forces (deployed in the state) because we need to protect the life and property of innocent citizens .... When terrorism is under control, we can look at all these questions," Singh said when asked if the government would consider reduction of security forces in J&K.
On the issue of alleged human right violations by the security forces, he said, "Our armed force is not an armed force of occupation.... They have a proud record, though there could be some aberrations, but these aberrations cannot be allowed. There should be zero tolerance for human rights violations for all our security forces."
To a question on the disappearance of several thousands of Kashmiri youths during the 16 years of militancy, the Prime Minister said there was no specific discussion on the issue during the roundtable.
"There are, I think, possibilities of taking on board this issue in one of the working groups (set up by the government today) dealing with confidence-building measures. There is scope for discussing this issue as terms of references of one of the working groups," he said.
Referring to the outcome of the Roundtable boycotted by separatists, Singh said "this conference gives me hope and confidence. I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel. If all these gentlemen put together their wisdom, knowledge and experience, we will have a constructive outcome."
All political parties and civil society representatives participated in the conclave, he pointed out.
Asked about the reported complaint by a senior Congress leader from J and K that he was not consulted on the Roundtable, the Prime Minister refused to comment saying he would not like to say anything on what he has not read or seen.
Voicing concern over lack of employment in the state, Singh said the Government will consider "all pragmatic measures to deal with the issue which affects youth of the country, including those in J&K."