Troops withdrawal in J&K planned

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A soldier on alert at Sopore, 50 km north of Srinagar.
A soldier on alert at Sopore, 50 km north of Srinagar.

Special Correspondent

‘Significant number of battalions will be pulled out’

Chidambaram: violence in J&K was the lowest in 2009

“Committed to holding quiet talks with all groups”

NEW DELHI: The Centre announced on Wednesday its intention to draw down a “significant number of battalions” from Jammu & Kashmir and reiterated its commitment to hold “quiet talks with all Kashmiri groups” far away from the media.

Speaking on two occasions in the Rajya Sabha, once while replying to a short duration discussion on internal security and earlier during question hour, Home Minister P. Chidamabaram said he would not specify the number of battalions that would be pulled out from the State.

Increasingly, the Central police forces were transferring the task of maintaining law and order to the J&K police, which reflected the changing atmosphere in the State. Noting the success in neutralising infiltrating cadres and their commanders in J&K, the Minister said that the incidence of violence, both against civilians and the security forces, was the lowest in 2009. However, as infiltration continued, vigil could not be lowered.

Mr. Chidambaram declined to go into the specifics of his proposal to hold talks with every shade of political opinion. “When I had an opportunity to explain the scope of the talks, I said that these will be quiet talks, quiet diplomacy, far away from the glare of the media. We stand by that statement and I can only tell this House that there are encouraging responses,” he observed.

Asked why he was holding talks with separatists and not with Maoists, Mr. Chidambaram said a new generation of leaders had taken over many of the Kashmiri groups and he did not think the government should shy away from talking to them just because they had phrased a demand in a particular manner.

On the recent observations by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Mr. Chidambaram did not think “We should take one sentence of a speech or one statement made here and there and say that is a policy declaration. I have met with Mr. Abdullah several times. I can assure the House and the Leader of the Opposition that we are on the same page.”

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