Double Delhi peace signal - Moves on eve of Musharraf visit

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By OUR BUREAU in Delhi
  • Published 4.04.05

New Delhi, April 4: Before Pervez Musharraf starts packing his bags for the India trip, two signals are going out of Delhi to confirm its intention to press forward with the process of normalisation in Kashmir internally.

One is military and the other economic.

The top brass of the army, which began a bi-annual conference today, is deliberating changes in the counter-insurgency strategy in the context of the confidence-building measures on the Line of Control (LoC).

On the same day and three days before he flags off the first Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set up a task force to prepare a long-term development plan for Kashmir.

At the inauguration of the army commanders? meeting, defence minister Pranab Mukherjee set the tone for the discussions when he said, first, that the threat of a conventional war has receded and, second, that there was a need ?to guard against the use of softer borders to promote subversion and terrorism?.

This is the first meeting of all army commanders since the Prime Minister asked for a reduction of troops last October. A further re-orientation of army strategy to bolster confidence-building measures at the time of General Musharraf?s visit is likely.

Mukherjee explained that India?s policy towards Pakistan ?is to pursue a dialogue with the government on all outstanding issues and simultaneously to expand people-to-people contacts and promote confidence-building measures?.

Coming ahead of Musharraf?s visit on April 16, Mukherjee?s statements at a forum that has been used by his predecessors to make belligerent statements is a clear indication that India will push ahead with its policy of rapprochement.

The discussions at the conference are expected to touch upon the density of troops in the Valley and whether the army can consider making room for paramilitary forces in counter-insurgency operations in populated areas.

Counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir are carried out in the main by the Rashtriya Rifles which is staffed by and takes its orders from the army but is technically under the Union home ministry.

The task force set up by the Prime Minister to give an interim report in six months and the final report in a year on economic development of the state will be headed by former Reserve Bank governor C. Rangarajan.

Sunil Mittal of Bharti Telecom, S.K. Munjal of Hero Cycles, who is also the president of the Confederation of Indian Industry, and Analjit Singh of Max India are the representatives of the corporate sector in the committee.

Sources close to Singh said the selection had nothing to do with their ?individual standing or contributions?.

?It is not on a one-to-one basis. They have been taken to give ideas and what kind of initiatives need to be taken,? a source said.

The committee has also been asked to identify the sources of finance ? local, national and global ? for development.

Rangarajan also heads a panel that monitors implementation of projects under the Rs 24,000-crore development plan Singh announced last November on his first visit to the state after assuming office.