There is a need to build a “fear of consequences” within laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) so that they are not misused by the Army, feels Jammu and Kashmir Chief Omar Abdullah.
Talking on wide-ranging issues in New Delhi on Saturday at a conclave, Mr. Omar also dismissed suggestions mainly coming from Army that withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan will have bearing on Kashmir’s internal security.
The Chief Minister, who has been advocating partial withdrawal of AFSPA from areas more peaceful in the state, did agree that as long as Army was involved in internal security duties, it needed a legal cover to operate.
“So long as you are using army for internal security duty, they need legal cover to operate. I think we need to differentiate between legal cover and impunity.
“The sort of cover they get now is they can do whatever they believe without fear of consequences. I think that fear of consequences has to be built back into the system,” Mr. Omar said.
Mr. Omar along with the then Home Minister P. Chidambaram had raised the issue with central leaders many a time but even his proposal for partial withdrawal of AFSPA hit a road block from Defence Ministry which, on advice of Army, red flagged it.
Even the Administrative Reforms Committee favoured withdrawal of AFSPA and drafting of a new law with certain checks and balances.
Mr. Omar appeared optimistic on the issue. “I am sure we will be able to withdraw some rules,” he said.
Mr. Omar rejected the suggestion made by Army at various forums that withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan will have an adverse impact on his state.
“I don’t buy that argument at all. The reason why I don’t buy this argument is that so far we have been taking credit for whatever improvement has taken place and now if we are going to blame Americans for the deterioration, then it means that improvement was because of their actions as well, which I refuse to accept,” the Chief Minister said.
“Therefore, if the Americans withdraw from Afghanistan, it will have very limited consequences for the state which has been seeing good years on anti-terrorism front.”
On India and Pakistan relations, Mr. Omar sought to draw a comparison between the two nations. “I don’t think India’s relationship with Pakistan is centred around Kashmir” but Pakistan’s relationship with India certainly is focused on Kashmir.
“They (Pakistan) have uni-focal dimension sort of relationship with India.... For them Kashmir is everything and everything else is secondary. It is not the same for us.
“While we believe that Jammu and Kashmir is an important issue and it needs to be resolved, it need not be the only issue that dogs our relations. There are host of other issues that needs to be resolved,” he said.