Army Sorry For Criticising Omar2 December 2010
The Telegraph (Kolkata)
Srinagar: The army in a rare gesture today apologised to Omar Abdullah for criticising his move to remove bunkers and reduce troops in Srinagar. A statement on Tuesday issued by defence public relations officer Lt Col Pradeep Kochhar sparked the row between the force and the state. It said: “While it (slashing troops and removal of bunkers) may have pleased a few separatists and their handlers in Pakistan, what about the common man in the Valley? Will the reduced security and visible absence of the forces raise uncertainties, fear and doubt in the minds of the populace during the long winter ahead?” The army withdrew the statement the same evening. Yesterday evening, Lt Gen B.S. Jaswal, the general officer commanding in chief of the Northern Command spoke to Omar and reportedly apologised for the statement issued by Kochhar. Today, another written statement, again issued by Kochhar, said: “Lt Gen B.S. Jaswal has apologised to the chief minister on this issue. The state government and the army are maintaining the best of relations and would continue to do so. The chief minister and the army commander share extremely cordial relations and have the best of functional rapport. The entire episode is deeply regretted.” The statement also added that the views expressed in a November 30 news release were the personal opinion of a junior officer, which were inadvertently issued. The “contents”, it said, were cleared neither by the headquarters, Northern Command, nor by the directorate of public relations in the ministry of defence in South Block, New Delhi. Nor does the army subscribe to the views expressed,” it added. Earlier too, the civilian administration and the force have held contrary views on security matters leading to acrimony, but senior army officers could not recall another instance when the uniformed force had apologised to the state administration. An angry Omar had complained to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a letter yesterday. When asked today what his letter to Singh contained, the chief minister refused to give details but confirmed he had written to the Prime Minister. Yesterday, Omar also reaffirmed the continuation of the measures to reduce security forces in the Valley by announcing removal of 25 bunkers from Srinagar. The army and the Jammu and Kashmir government have been at loggerheads after the state succeeded in shifting an army camp from Sopore last year in the face of opposition from the force. The relations never improved as Omar wanted the Armed Forces Special Powers Act repealed or amended. The law gives the army unbridled powers in insurgency zones.