Kashmir CM Meets Indian Defence Minister on AFSPA issue

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Srinagar, Nov 13: The Chief Minister of Indian administered Kashmir (IaK), Omar Abdullah Sunday met Indian defence minister A K Antony in the Indian capital, New Delhi and pressed for the early removal of controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), giving special immunity to Indian soldiers for their acts in the region.

Sources said during the meeting, Omar apprised the Indian Defence Minister about the improvement in law and order situation and fall in militancy in Kashmir. “He told him that the summer has been peaceful this year and this demands lifting of AFSPA from some peaceful areas of the region,” they said.

“The Chief minister told the Indian Defence minister that the tourism industry witnessed a boom this year with nearly 1.3 million Indian and foreign tourists visiting the region till October this year. With improvement in the overall situation, people should be given a breather and AFSPA should be lifted from some parts of the region.”

Sources, however, said the Indian defence minister expressed his apprehension over the proposed phased withdrawal of AFSPA from the region. “He feared that its (AFSPA) withdrawal may lead to increase in militancy, which in turn will have a direct impact on the security scenario in the region,” they said.

Sources said the Chief Minister of IaK Omar Abdullah may meet Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on Monday to discuss the issue (removal of AFSPA).

It is in place to mention here that senior Indian army officers deployed in the region have voiced their serious reservations over the withdrawal of AFSPA from certain parts citing security concerns.

Army contended that AFSPA is an enabling act to counter militancy operations and should be seen in the context of the proxy war waged by Pakistan in the state.

The Chief Minister of IaK has been pressing for partial removal of AFSPA and suggested that it could be removed from Srinagar and Budgam besides Jammu city and Samba in the winter capital. During a police function in Srinagar, the summer capital of IaK recently, Omar had said that AFSPA would be removed from some parts of the region soon.

Fayaz Wani reports on life in Srinagar, Kashmir.