New Delhi : Defence Minister A.K. Antony will visit the Kashmir Valley later this month to study the ground situation against the backdrop of demands for reducing troop levels in the area.
"I will be going later this month," Antony told reporters here Tuesday on the sidelines of a function at which he flagged in an Indian Army expedition that last month successfully scaled Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain.
The Indian Army chief, Gen. J.J. Singh, will accompany Antony.
"I have already visited Jammu. Now I will visit Kashmir," the minister added.
During the visit, senior army and civilian officials will brief Antony on the steps being taken to control a dragging insurgency that India blames on Pakistan and that has claimed some 70,000 lives in the last 18 years. The security forces put the figure at 50,000.
Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt had paid a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir earlier this month for consultations on the demand of the Peoples Democratic Party, a junior partner in the state's Congress-led coalition, for reducing troop levels.
The Congress has opposed the demand.
Dutt will now submit a report to Antony and the minister will study this before he visits the Kashmir Valley.