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Stick to our Kashmir plan

The attack in Srinagar calls for balancing troop reduction and security in the Valley.

india Updated: Jan 07, 2010 21:55 IST

The claim made by the pro-Pakistan Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen that the suicide attack in Srinagar was meant to derail the political process says it all. Ever since the government announced its intention of scaling down troops in the state, the sponsors of terrorism across the border have been itching to scuttle it. Despite the fact that the two militants who carried out the attack have been killed, the operation, the first fidayeen one since 2007, makes it all the more difficult for the governments in the state and Centre to sell the idea that troop reduction is in the interest of peace in the state. Defence Minister A.K. Antony has said that 30,000 troops have already been withdrawn, even though naysayers feel that this is not visible on the ground. It is quite possible that every effort will be made to negate the goodwill created by the troop withdrawal.

This is a contingency which must be factored into the efforts being made both by Omar Abdullah’s government and the Centre to de-escalate tensions in the Valley. It is no secret that the terrorists want to keep the pot boiling. In recent times, Pakistan has been far too pre-occupied with its own enormous internal problems that even those interested in carrying out terror attacks on Indian soil have not been able to spare the effort to do so. This explains the long period of relative calm and peace in the state. In addition, a young chief minister, unhampered by the baggage of the past, has succeeded to some extent in giving Kashmiris a stake in the Indian Union. Pakistan’s slide into anarchy has also created a sense of disillusionment among those who had once hankered to be part of that country. So, it was inevitable that the terror machine would do something to bring the focus back on itself.

The Centre must stay the course on troop reduction but at the same time ensure that security is not compromised. This is best done by giving the local security personnel a larger role in policing the state. If things stay on course, irrespective of the recent ugly incidents, the time may be ripe to review the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act with the goal of eventually repealing it. If this is done, a major bone of contention and an obstacle in the path to peace will be removed. The message to the Kashmiris should be clear — terror attacks will be dealt with firmly, but the trajectory that the government is on will continue.