Persistent demand by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, former J&K Chief Minister and patron of PDP – an ally of the Congress-led Government in the State – for troop reduction in J&K has taken a sinister dimension in view of the grave threats contained in a tape recently issued by Al-Qaeda.
Although the tapes also blame President Pervez Musharraf for acting against Al-Qaeda cadres in Pakistan and Afghanistan, India has been targeted in a focused manner. Home Ministry is believed to have alerted all security agencies to take a serious view of these threats and take appropriate measures.
National Security Adviser M K Naryanan didn'thide the disturbing information that Al-Qaeda had recently conducted reconnaissance missions in India and that its cells – like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) – are already operating in India. What is worrisome is that ruling party leadership habitually plays down threats to Indian security and is soft on terror.
Mufti claims that the Prime Minister'sresponse to his demand is ?very positive? and says he raised the issue with Dr. Manmohan Singh thrice and found him quite serious on the issue. There are other indications confirming PDP leader'sclaim. The Union Home Secretary visited the state twice and interacted with officials and citizens at the district level to assess the situation. Union Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, who too visited J&K went on record to say that there was considerable improvement in the situation. Of course, all that was said before the recent spurt in killing of non-Kashmiri labourers from Bihar and U.P. Terror group threatened and attacked them leading to an exodus.
Troops deployed in J&K are on three distinct duties – defending international borders and LoC, on counter-infiltration duties and operations in hinterland for the assistance of the civil authorities. There is absolutely no question of thinning of troops on the international border and LoC in J&K, till the border is delineated and defined. The deployment of forces on counter-infiltration operations is dynamic and keeps changing depending on the situation in the state. The Army is categorical that there is no question of relocating troops deployed on counter-infiltration duties, as infiltration from across the LoC had not come down. There is no question of lowering our guard on that front in view of the stark reality that Pakistan continues to push trained and well-armed terrorists across the LoC. That leaves only 75,000 and odd army personnel – mostly from Rashtriya Rifles – that are deployed in support of the civil authorities to maintain law and order. As of now, army has been withdrawn from cities and towns in the valley and Jammu in view of the improvement in the situation. The army is, of course, still deployed in rural areas where threat perception persists. The prevailing situation demands that the army continue to operate in hinterland to control key geographical features, protecting lines of communication and supporting law and order in far flung areas that continue to be targeted by terror groups.
No one – least of all the army – is keen to remain in the hinterland if it is not required to help the state administration in maintaining law and order. Security experts have repeatedly asserted that troops deployment to assist the civil administration should be an exception rather than the rule. Unfortunately, police force in J&K, as in several other states, is not adequately motivated, trained and equipped to deal with highly motivated, well trained and armed with sophisticated weapons terror groups. There is need to do a lot in that area. Till that is done, assistance of army is of utmost importance if the nation is to win the war against terror and separatism. Most of the allegations against armed forces for violation of human rights also come from areas where troops are burdened with law and order duties. While many allegations of human right violation are unfounded, armed forces need to be sensitized on the issue as even a single error by an over-wrought soldier can bring bad name to the security forces.
There is acute shortage of space for army camps but the authorities need to pool resources to ensure that the citizens are not unduly inconvenienced. Orchards owners need to be restored their property or paid adequate compensation if no alternative accommodation is available for the troops. The same should apply to para military forces that too are in occupation of public and private properties in rural areas. Genuine grievances of the citizens should be taken care of to reduce their alienation but those who are involved in terror and anti-national activities need to be dealt with a heavy hand.