While Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Tuesday cautioned that 2010 may prove crucial as forces inimical to peace and stability in Jammu and Kashmir would make all efforts to neutralize gains of previous years. He asked the security agencies in the State not to be complacent and work towards consolidating these gains.
While expressing concern over renewed attempts by Pakistan to facilitate infiltration Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said that this year should be of consolidation.
Mr. Antony who arrived in Jammu on a day-long visit told a high level meeting of top brass of various security forces and agencies at the Unified Headquarters the synergy and hard work put in by the various security agencies, as also the local people, has brought down considerably the ‘level of violence’ in J&K though the attempts of infiltration has increased.
Mr. Antony’s visit came at a time when there have been several attempts by militants to infiltrate in this side. ‘The incidents of the first week of January in the valley are indicative of the shape of things to come’, the Minister said with reference to Lal Chowk attack.
The meeting was attended by the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, the Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, Chief of Army Staff, General Deepak Kapoor, the Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, officers and commanders from MoD and Service Headquarters, senior officers from Jammu and Kashmir government and various security and Intelligence Agencies, according to an official release.
The official release quoted Mr. Antony as saying that “with the improvement in the security situation, time has now come for the State Police to be given far greater responsibility, particularly in major towns in tackling the threat of terrorism in the state. However, ‘the handing over of the responsibility must be meticulously planned and undertaken in a gradual, phased manner’,
He disclosed that on the request of Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Home Affairs has issued instructions to CRPF to take over the entire responsibility of opening of roads on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway from January 15, 2010. ‘This has been done to reduce the visibility of the Army, without in any way, diluting our counter-terrorist grid’, he said.
Mr. Antony said a request has also been sent to MHA to issue instructions to discontinue the use of combat uniform by all Central Police Organisations and State police.
The Defence Minister reiterated the government’s policy of ‘zero tolerance’ towards Human Rights Violation by Armed Forces personnel. “Our Armed Forces personnel must be conscious of the respect for human rights all the time. They must follow the twin ethics of ‘minimum use of force’ and ‘good faith’ during operations. Though the constraints of the security forces are understandable, the security forces too must bear in mind that the process of winning the hearts and minds of people is never an easy one,” Mr Antony said. Speaking to the meeting Mr. Abdullah said “2009 was a better year for us in terms of the overall security environment and 2010, I believe has also begun on a positive note.”
“Let us all consolidate the gains made in the direction of normalization of situation in J&K to make 2010 the year of consolidation”, he said urging for recruitment drive for local youth in defence forces and urged for frequent recruitment rallies for this purpose in the State especially in far-flung areas. He said that there is need to carry on developmental works in the State as “State succeeded in receiving maximum financial support from the Centre and a massive development process has been launched as such sporadic militancy related incidents and law and order incidents should not hamper the development process.” He further said that standing operating procedures should be followed while dealing with law and order and militancy related incidents. He said that synergy existing between various forces needs to be further strengthened.
Mr. Omar also stressed on enhancing the rotary tonnage and providing helicopter service to the cut off and far-flung areas in the State.