Changing AFSPA: Air Chief Cautions Against Dilution14 September 2010
The Economic Times
New Delhi: The Centre’s attempt to script a political package for Jammu and Kashmir is proving to be difficult, with the security forces cautioning the government against any step that would dispirit men in uniform and undermine their efforts. Air Chief Marshal P V Naik, also chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee, sent out a clear message that the forces consider Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) critical to their operations in troubled spots. His comments came in the backdrop of demands for its repeal and a proposal before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to partially revoke it in Jammu and Kashmir. The differences within the CCS - defence minister A K Antony expressed his reservations over the proposal at Monday’s meeting - prompted the prime minister to take it up after the all-party meeting on Wednesday. In his interaction with reporters here, Air Chief Marshal, the seniormost armed forces officer in the country, said the defence forces needed all the legal help while discharging their duties in the disturbed areas. “I believe that a soldier involved in performing his duty deserves all the legal protection that he can get. I am sure the government is sensitised to this particular problem and whatever decision they take, I am sure it will be the correct one,” said the Air Chief Marshal. It is also a tough political call for the government as parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party have been vehemently opposing the proposal. A section of the Congress is also not too sure about the profitability in expending its political capital through this controversial move. That the government would weigh its pros and cons before taking a decision on the issue was clear when Mr Antony said that a final call would be taken only after taking all major parties on board. “Important decisions have to be taken after carefully assessing all aspects. The CCS had a long meeting on Monday. We felt that we should take all major parties into confidence before taking a decision,” Mr Antony told reporters. The Centre cannot be unmindful of the continuing violence in the Valley. The state government on Tuesday placed entire Valley under curfew after the spiral of violence left 17 people dead and over 70 injured on Monday. There have also been reports about protesters defying curfew in Baramulla where two people were injured in clashes with the police. For the first time since the Kargil War 11 years ago, air services to and from Srinagar have been suspended. There will be no flights for the next three days.