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Updated: November 14, 2011 17:59 IST

Omar pushes for AFSPA withdrawal; no time limit, says Antony

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Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah after his meeting with Home Minister P. Chidambaram in New Delhi. Photo: V. Sudershan
The Hindu
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah after his meeting with Home Minister P. Chidambaram in New Delhi. Photo: V. Sudershan

Pushing for revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and some senior Ministers with an assertion that his proposal can be implemented while addressing the concerns of armed forces.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony, however, maintained that no time limit could be put on a decision on the “very, very sensitive” which requires a “mature and cool” handling.

Amid persisting differences over the issue, Mr. Abdullah met the Prime Minister and Home Minister P. Chidambaram to push his case for revocation of the controversial Act from certain parts of the State. He was also scheduled to meet Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

“I believe that there is ample opportunity to address both the concerns of armed forces while still allowing us to go ahead with the position that we have taken, which is keeping with what the Cabinet Committee on Security recommended almost a year ago,” Mr. Abdullah said after meeting Mr. Chidambaram.

He said he was meeting members of the Cabinet Committee on Security as part of efforts to evolve a consensus.

“Obviously the effort is to narrow the differences between what we would like to see happening and what the Army has so far publicly stated... to let happen,” he said.

Asked what assurance he received from the Prime Minister and the Union Ministers, Mr. Abdullah said it was not proper for him to say anything on their behalf.

“I am not... it is not my place to speak on behalf of Raksha Mantri or the Prime Minister or the Home Minister. I have made our point of view very clear. They, I think, were very receptive, to what we had to say. As I say, this is an ongoing process, this will continue,” he told reporters.

“These discussions will continue. If necessary, I will meet them again. My effort is to reach the goal of partial withdrawal of AFSPA and simultaneously allay the apprehensions of the armed forces,” Mr. Abdullah said.

Mr. Antony, whom Mr. Abdullah met on Sunday, said he had “very frank” and “very fruitful” discussions with the Chief Minister but it was inconclusive.

“On our side, my opinion is that this being a very, very sensitive issue, let us handle it in a very mature and cool manner,” he told reporters in New Delhi in reply to questions on the issue of withdrawal of AFSPA in certain areas of the State.

The Defence Ministry and the Army are strongly opposed to lifting of AFSPA while the Home Ministry is in favour of such a step.

Mr. Antony said inter-governmental consultations are taking place and will continue.

To a question on the security situation in the State, the Defence Minister said it was much better. “But considering that the infiltration attempts from across the border are continuing, we have to be careful 24/7.”

When asked if the AFSPA issue would come up at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security this week, he said: “Don’t put any time limit.”

The Chief Minister said the state government was talking about withdrawal of AFSPA from the areas where armed forces were not operating now.

Noting that he had met the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, the Home Minister and was meeting the Finance Minister (all members of CCS), Mr. Abdullah said, “This will conclude my first round of discussions with the members of CCS.”

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