Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today asked China to sit with India and clearly demarcate the boundary in Ladakh region at the earliest to ensure that any incident like the recent incursion does no recur and peace prevails along the boundary.
The State shares a large boundary with China. “We are affected by what happens. It is no secret that tourism in Ladakh has been affected by the recent incursions,” Mr. Omar said during his interaction with members of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in New Delhi.
He said the incursions were nowhere near the places where tourists visit but “suddenly you have a build up in the media about the tensions between the two countries.”
“There is no demarcated Line of Actual Control, we understand that but having said that, I don’t know in whose interest that you come across, set up camps and take so long to go back,” the Chief Minister said.
He was replying to a question as to what message he would wish to give to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang who is on an official visit to India.
“So I think my message to them would be to please allow us to live in our part of the region, as they chose to live in their part and please sit down with the Indian side and work out. Let us have the formal demarcation and then we can do away with these incursions,” he said.
He said the tourism sector became a victim of the recent incursion incident following media spotlight. “We are hoping now that as the situation picks us, the number of tourists also will go up,” Mr. Omar said.
Partial withdrawal of AFSPA
Mr. Omar Abdullah, who has been advocating partial withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from some parts of his State, expressed hope of finding a “common meeting ground” with the Army on the vexed issue.
Listing the removal of AFSPA as an important confidence building measure, he contended that the special law has been misused from time to time and has forced various human rights body to support its repeal.
“We understand that you cannot overnight take it (AFSPA) away. It has to be a gradual process. It has to start with those areas where Army is no longer required to operate and that is what we have been asking for,” he said.
The Chief Minister was given an honorary membership of the club on the occasion.
He said there are areas in the State where infiltration and militancy continue to be a problem and thus, making a ground for Army’s presence.
“There are also areas where Army has not operated for a number of years now — where the security situation is controlled by Jammu and Kashmir Police and central paramilitary forces.
“In such places, the requirement for AFSPA that we discussed, that is exactly what we are doing, the Army has been very reluctant to go forward on this. But I believe there is a common meeting ground that can be found and we are talking about it.”
Revoking DA Act
He cited the coalition Government in his State as a hurdle for revoking of the Disturbed Areas Act, a prelude to the removal of AFSPA.
“I have a coalition Government in which Congress is an ally. They are also the single largest constituent of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the Centre. Clearly for me to do anything in the State I need a majority of my own or I need to take Congress on board.
“Both of which require discussion or a dialogue. I don’t have a majority of my own. And therefore, I need to carry political parties like Congress along with me and that is what I am trying to do. I wish it would be easier for me to remove DA Act. Before 2002, it would have been possible when the NC had a full majority in the Assembly, but that opportunity is unfortunately not available now,” he said.
Liyaqat Shah case
The Chief Minister said he was eagerly awaiting the final report of the National Investigating Agency (NIA) which is probing the alleged role of surrendered Kashmiri militant Liyaqat Shah in planning a terror attack.
“It is heartening for us that his (Liyaqat) bail application has been accepted and he is able to go back home. It indicates to us that the stand taken by Jammu and Kashmir police and J-K Government is the correct one.
“That having been said, I don’t know what would be NIA’s final findings. Should their final findings be on the same line then yes, we would have a lot more to say to Delhi Police.”
Liyaqat was booked by Delhi Police for allegedly being a part of a suicide squad tasked to carry out attacks in the national capital during Holi. However, Jammu and Kashmir police contested their claim saying Liyaqat was returning from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir via Nepal as part of the State Government’s surrender policy.
NIA will complete the inquiry and may give a clean chit that Liyaqat deserves, Mr. Omar said.
Lashing out at the political parties in the State, he said when his Government signed on a document supporting NIA for carrying out the probe, “my political Opposition claimed we were creating a brand new terror force or it’s going to be sort of special operation group which will terrorise Kashmiris.”
However, the facts speak for themselves and it has been proved beyond doubt that it (NIA) is an organisation which believes in transparent inquires.
The Chief Minister refrained from saying more on Liyaqat as that may threaten his life. “Let NIA finish its probe, I may have a lot to say to Delhi Police then,” he added.