Aarti Dhar

Decision on panel to study troops cut put off

  • Congress core group meeting fails to arrive at a decision
  • Disclose details of "troop relocation'': BJP

    NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday sought more time from People's Democratic Party (PDP) patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to resolve the contentious issue of troops reduction in civilian areas of Jammu and Kashmir. The PDP has since postponed its crucial political advisory committee meeting, scheduled for Thursday, to March 31.

    Need for consensus

    Dr. Singh told Mr. Sayeed that other political partners and coalition partners in the State needed to be taken on board to build consensus. The Prime Minister called up Mr. Sayeed here in the evening after a Congress core group meeting failed to arrive at a decision.

    The core group was to take a final decision on the establishment of a committee that would look into the demands raised by the PDP, an important ally of the Congress-led coalition in J&K.

    The core group meeting was attended by Dr. Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Union Ministers Pranab Mukherjee, Shivraj Patil and A.K. Antony, and political secretary to Congress president Ahmed Patel.

    Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad will arrive here on Thursday to hold discussions.

    The PDP threatened to pull out of the alliance if its demands were not met, but has now decided to "wait'' till the weekend for taking a final decision. Its political affairs committee meeting was rescheduled after the Prime Minister held two rounds of meetings with Mr. Sayeed and the two leaders agreed on setting up a panel to look into the PDP demands.

    While Mr. Sayeed wanted political representation on the committee, the Prime Minister made it clear that the panel would be headed by a security expert. Mr. Sayeed also held several rounds of talks with National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan.

    Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party once again asked the Government to disclose details of "troop relocation'' in the State. Its spokesman Prakash Javadekar told reporters that Army sources were quoted as describing the ground situation as a routine relocation exercise. "However, the question arises where the new relocation and fortification is taking place in the hilly areas."

    The party also sought a statement from Dr. Singh about his talks with the PDP. "People have a right to know the truth and the Government has to ensure that political expediency will not lead to a dilution of critical security considerations," Mr. Javadekar said.

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