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Antony rules out Kashmir troop cut

By Sarwar Kashani,IANS,

Mumbai : Defence Minister A.K. Antony Friday ruled out any reduction in the presence of the army in Jammu and Kashmir, saying if there was any cut of security forces in the troubled state it would be of paramilitary troopers only.

Home Secretary G.K. Pillai had announced last week that the government would reduce by a quarter the number of security forces in Kashmir in the next 12 months.

“There was some confusion. The announcement that was made (by Pillai) was about paramilitary forces,” Antony told reporters onboard INS Deepak, a fleet tanker he commissioned earlier in the day.

He said the defence ministry had received no proposal for reduction in military personnel in the state from the “people who are working on the ground”.

“At the present we don’t have any such proposal. People who are working on the ground, they will recommend (such proposals),” he said.

The home secretary last week at a seminar in Delhi said the government would reduce by 25 percent the number of security forces in Jammu and Kashmir as part of confidence building measures planned for the state.

“There will be a 25 percent reduction of security forces in Jammu and Kashmir, especially from populated areas, in the next 12 months,” Pillai said.

The Indian Army immediately countered, with its chief, Gen. V.K. Singh, saying that “no person from the home ministry will (talk) about the army as it is under the purview of the defence ministry.

“I am quite sure that the home secretary knows about it and was talking only about the paramilitary forces,” Singh maintained.

He said that any decision regarding the reduction of the army’s strength in the Kashmir Valley would be taken by the Unified Command, a security grid of the army, paramilitary and police forces that is headed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

Echoing this, Antony also asserted that the Unified Command should take any such decision, adding that no recommendation had been made.