There will be counter-measures: Parrikar on Kashmir terror

Panaji : Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar Sunday said there will be “counter-measures” in the light of the escalating terror strikes in the poll-bound Jammu and Kashmir where 21 people, including security personnel, were killed Friday by Lashkar-e-Taiba militants.

Parrikar told reporters near Panaji that he was monitoring the situation in Kashmir on an hourly basis, and also defended his presence in Goa Friday when the attacks took place.

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Asked about the violence in Kashmir and seizure of a large cache of arms and other materials, which the Indian Army claimed were from Pakistan, Parrikar said: “There will be counter-measures. What is the nature of the measures I cannot tell you.”

On the security scenario in Kashmir, Parrikar said he was “monitoring the situation on an hourly basis”.

The former Goa chief minister also said large-scale voting in the first two phases of elections to the state assembly had rankled the terrorist handlers, who now in desperation were looking to unleash violence.

“Seventy-two percent voting is a sign that Kashmir is moving into the mainstream. This is disturbing the terrorists’ handlers, who in acts of desperation are attempting to derail the (electoral) process,” Parrikar said, echoing a similar view expressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an election rally in Jharkhand Saturday.

Parrikar praised the security forces for standing up to the threat of the militants, who Friday tried to storm an army camp in Baramulla district.

“I am pained at the loss of the men. But also proud that they did not allow civilian casualties. They stood up to the threat,” he said.

Over the past few days, terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad have upped the ante and executed repeated attacks, including Friday’s suicide attack which killed 19 people — 11 security personnel and two civilians, besides six terrorists. Two more militants were killed in two incidents elsewhere in the state.

The attacks took place when the five-phase assembly elections have recorded a large voter turnout.

The Indian Army has alleged the hand of Pakistan behind the attacks as well as the numerous attempts to send militants across the Line of Control into Jammu and Kashmir.

Parrikar Sunday defended his presence in Goa to attend a book release event despite the escalating violence in Kashmir.

“There are some who said I should be in Kashmir. If I am in Kashmir, the army will have to spend energy on taking care of me,” he told reporters at a press conference Sunday on the outskirts of Panaji.

On Friday, after a photograph on Twitter showed the defence minister releasing journalist Rajdeep Sardesai’s new book “2014: The Election that Changed India”, many Twitter users criticised Parrikar for not being serious about his brief as the defence minister.

Parrikar Saturday met state government officials and politicians to take stock of a new bridge, which was sanctioned when he was chief minister.

On Sunday, he reviewed the logistics for the exposition of St. Francis Xavier, a decennial feast held in honour of the 16th century Spanish saint.

The opposition criticised the defence minister for spending too little time in South Block, headquarters of the defence ministry, and spending too much time in Goa.

“Parrikar should be out there defending our soldiers and the country, instead of releasing books in Goa,” Congress organising secretary Durgadas Kamat said.