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Troop reduction in J&K when situation improves: PM
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March 23, 2007 19:47 IST

With Jammu and Kashmir coalition partner Peoples Democratic Party breathing down the Congress' neck demanding troop reduction in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday said the force level depends on threat perception and reduction will be considered when the situation improves.

"What more assurance can I give? I have said repeatedly that the force level will correspond to threat perception and security assessment. As and when the situation improves, we will ourselves take steps to effect proper reduction," he told reporters on the sidelines of a function at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

He was responding to a series of questions on the PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's demand for troop reduction.

Noting that "all leaders are patriots", Singh said "we will find a credible solution. They may have different perceptions. But the objective is the same, that the people of J&K live a life of dignity and self-respect. I have faith in their inherent patriotism".

"Our forces are not an army of occupation. They are there to protect the life and liberty of the citizens. As and when the necessity (of maintaining force level) disappears, we will bring about reduction in forces," the prime minister said.

The prime minister said the force levels "are not static. If the security situation is under control, we will review them. We review the matter on a regular basis".

To a question on J&K Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's observation that infiltration has doubled in the recent months, Singh the infiltration level keep changing. At times, it goes up and at times it declines. "I am hopeful, we can bring about harmony and reconciliation" in the state, he said.

To a question on his visit to Pakistan, Singh said he had accepted an invitation from President Pervez Musharraf, but the dates of his visit were yet to be finalised. On the upcoming SAARC summit, the prime minister said he was "eagerly looking forward to the summit".

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