New Delhi, March 15: The army wants a decision on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) — which the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister wants revoked — to be “de-politicised” and believes that withdrawing it “will put the clock back”.
“We are in disturbed areas, not because we love to die, not because we are having fun there. It’s because the nation needs us there. We know our red lines. The recommendations we make are based on national security imperatives and they are not army-centric. I respect civil control and civilian authority, but in the current situation the AFSPA should not be taken away from Jammu and Kashmir,” army chief General Bikram Singh said here today.
Militants would be encouraged if the AFSPA were to be repealed and the relative peace of the last few months would be in danger, he said.
“This decision (on AFSPA) has to be taken in the backdrop of violence profile, in the backdrop of what can happen in future, in the backdrop of futuristic contours. We have to be very confident that it does not relapse. We shall not be left in a position of disadvantage,” he said.
The Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, Omar Abdullah, and his father, cabinet minister Farooq Abdullah, re-stated their demand for a withdrawal of the AFSPA yesterday even hours after an attack by militants in Srinagar in which five CRPF jawans were killed.
The army chief said that a decision should be based on “ground realities” that would assess the situation in the neighbourhood. He was referring to the proposed withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan in 2014 and the threat of a “spillover” from militants following it.
“It is important to observe the situation and it is important to understand the security contours of the situation before we take a decision. The decision should be a pragmatic one, it should be in national interest and it should not be politicised,” he said.
“We only make recommendations. If I was to be asked, I would say that the time is not right at the moment to tamper with this enabling act. We should not take away AFSPA at this juncture,” he said in answer to questions at a conclave organised by the India Today media group.
The chief also said that the army was an instrument of power that should be kept prepared for external threats. Its deployment for internal security operations should only be as aid to civil authority after considering a situation.
The general also said that given the trust deficit between India and Pakistan, a proposal to withdraw troops from the Siachen glacier would not carry favour. “Siachen is our area. Why are we talking about giving it to anyone?” he said.
He said that the “terror infrastructure” on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control was intact. One of the two militants killed in yesterday’s attack in Srinagar is believed to be of Pakistani origin.