June 2004 News

No Plan To Revoke Armed Forces Act In J&K: Pranab

30 June 2004
The Daily Excelsior

Srinagar: Asserting that the Centre had no plan to revoke Armed Forces Act in Jammu and Kashmir, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said the challenge from militancy in the State had been reduced. 'It (challenge of militancy) is a subjective assessment in respect of number of incidents or casualties. At present, it is not as high as it was in the past,' Mukherjee, who completed a maiden two-day visit to the State after taking over as Defence Minister told reporters at old airfield before leaving for Delhi. Mukherjee, however, said that in view of the recent incidents of violence, there was no plan to revoke the Armed Forces Act in force in Jammu and Kashmir since early 1990s. 'The incidents of violence clearly demonstrate that the militant threat is still there and we never claimed that we have completely eliminated them,' he said. On the rise in militant violence like attack on tourists and killing of the IRCON engineer in the State after the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance took charge at Centre the Defence Minister said the ultras wanted to make their presence felt on important occasions. There is a psychology that whenever major events of national importance take place or an international dignatory visits the country,terrorists want to make their presence felt. Mukherjee, who visited forward areas along the Line of Control and International Border, reiterated that there was no increase in infiltration so far this summer but many militants were waiting on the launching pads across the border to infiltrate. Fencing work is almost complete barring some patches, Mukherjee said adding, ' I hope that fencing along with surveillance and vigilance would stop exfiltration as well as infiltration.' Giving an assessment of his visit, the Defence Minister said developments since last November have created an atmosphere of peace and the resumption of talks will help in defusing the tension. 'I hope that there will be no further escalation of terrorist violence or subversive acts,' he said. Asked how would he assess the Pakistani intention on infiltration, he said it will be too early to say anything. But no country would ever agree that it is supporting, aiding or abetting cross-border terrorism. Mukherjee said in the post-cold war era, cross-border terrorism was the biggest threat to world peace. On the level of infiltration at the moment, he said,' you cannot make a quantum assessment. We have to look at the logistic advantages and disadvantages. The forces have done a good job and they would continue to remain vigilant on this front.' Asked if the fencing of LoC had tacit approval of Islamabad, Mukherjee said of course. There is a peace initiative and it is moving in the right direction,he said. On Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service, the Defence Minister said various Confidence Building Measures can be taken to push foward the peace process. Asked whether the Government was planning to reopen the probe into Kargil intrusion, Mukherjee replied in the negative. A Commission had been appointed which submitted its report and some action has been taken as well. 'We have no plan to reopen the probe,' he added. Asked if the ministry was planning to raise Gujjar scouts on the pattern of Ladakh scouts in the Army, he said certain batallions have already been raised and been rightly named as Home and Hearth force in which locals will be recruited for security of their areas. On the status of Bagga Commission, he said he has not seen the file yet. The Defence Minister was accompanied by Chief of Army Staff General N C Vij and General Officer Commanding in Chief Northern Command Lt Gen Hari Prasad on his visit to the State.


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