Pranab rules out withdrawal of troops in J&K
17 May 2006
The Daily Excelsior
New Delhi: Defence Minister Pranab Kumar Mukherjee today ruled out any withdrawal of troops from Jammu and Kashmir, saying the threat perception did not allow such a step. He also said there was no question on any withdrawal of troops in Siachen so long as talks going on with Pakistan on the issue do not yield any result. Mr Mukherjee was replying to supplementaries in the Rajya Sabha during the question hour. Asserting that the media misreported the statement of Vice Chief of the Army Staff regarding troops withdrawal from Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Mukherjee said there was no contradiction between his statement in the house today and that of the Vice Chief of the Army Satff. He said he was only saying that the number of the security forces in the Valley would depend on the changing threat perception, and since no decrease has been noticed in regard, no troops withdrawal was under consideration. He was asked whether the statement made by the deputy Chief of Army in Sadbhavana Abhiyan differ with the Government's views on the presence of troops in the Valley. Mr Mukherjee said that no statement was made by any of the two deputy Chiefs of the Army Staff, and the member was perhaps referring to the one made by Vice Chief of the Army Staff. 'The quantum of troops deployed in the State was continuously asessed and reviewed by the Army based on changing threat perception.' he said. The Defence Minister also ruled out any pull out from Siachen, saying that talks with Pakistan on the issue had so far not yielded any result. 'Nine round of talks have been held and the 10th round was going to be held on May 23 and 24,' he said, adding that India will continue to try peaceful options with its neighbours. Replying to a supplementary on ISI activities and the reported involvement of ISI in the killing of Indian Telecom Engineer K Suryanarayana by Taliban in Afghanistan, the Defence Minister said the ISI was 'equally active'. He, however, stopped short of blaming the ISI directly in Suryanarayana's killing. 'Although Pakistan has denied, there are certain indications that ISI is equally active. That is what we trying to convey to Pakistan that terrorists cannot be anybody's friends...I don't know whether they can be their own friends,' he added. The Defence Minister said confidence could be established between India and Pakistan only when terrorist activity was stopped. He said 59 terrorist training camps still existed across the Line of Control (LoC) which were the launching pads of terrorist activity. He hoped that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf would keep his word not to allow terrorist activity against India from his country. He said he did not claim that terrorist activity had totally stopped. Terrorist incidents still took place as was evident by the recent Doda killings. 'Terrorism is not like electricity. It can't be switched on and switched off.' He described as the indicators of peace in Kashmir valley the increasing number of tourist arrivals, decreasing terrorist incidents, people's urge to build up good relations with those from across the border and the round-table conference with Kashmiri leaders. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is holding the second round-table conference with Kashmiri leaders at Srinagar on May 25. 'When I find the number of tourists and the economic activity increasing, the strong urge among the people to create bonds with the other side, a round table conference-these are all indicators' (of returning normalcy),' he said. Giving figures of terrorist incidents and killings during the past three years, Mr Mukherjee said that in 2003, 3,401 terrorist incidents had been reported as compared to 2,565 in 2004 and 1990 in 2005. Civilian killing had reduced by 21.2 per cent and the deaths of security forces had declined by 32 per cent. Overall terrorist killings had come down by 29 per cent. These were some of the estimates, he said. Asked how confident was he about terrorist activity be stopped, the minister said 'It does not depend on my level of confidence but on the geo-political scenario,' he added. The Defence Minister said armed forces were deployed for maintaining internal security when the situation became difficult for civilian authorities to handle. 'But that cannot be a permanent arrangement,' he said adding that troops are withdrawn as and when the situation allows. Replying to a supplementary by CPI(M) member Brinda Karat about Human Rights Violations by troops in Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Mukherjee said whenever such incidents occur and come to the Government's notice strict action is taken against the culprit. He, however, said it would be unfair for the defence forces to generalise on the basis of a few incidents, and it would not be good for the people also as they need to know that the Army is there to protect them and need to be told how to take the Army's help when needed. The need for the presence of the Army was badly felt during the Doda incident, he said pointing out that there was a complaint that the troops were placed far away when their help was needed. The Army in Jammu and Kashmir was doing some good work also in the sectors not directly concerned with it. It was constructing roads and providing health services in remote rural areas, he said. On formation of the Village Defence Committee, he said the Government was encouraging their formation, but any decision to give weapons to the people for self- defence was not easy to take. If people are not given very modern weapons, they cannot counter terrorists with them, but if they are equipped with sophisticated ones, they were most likely to be the target of terrorists for possession of such weapons. So all of these aspects were being discussed. 'We are discussing with Army Commanders and the State Government as to what instrumentalities are to be devised to make the Village Defence Committees more effective,' he said.