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For Centre, there's no 'quick-fix' for Kashmir

By Renu Mittal
September 14, 2010 01:26 IST

The three hour-long meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security on Monday evening failed to determine how best to control the ongoing violence in Kashmir Valley, except to decide to hold an all party meeting on September 15 to discuss the issue with the opposition parties.

But sources state that as in the core committee, in CCS too there were sharp differences between Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and Defence Minister A K Antony over whether to agree to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's demand that the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act should be withdrawn from the six districts of the state.

It is learnt that this issue was discussed for about one and a half hours and it was then decided to seek the response of other parties, in particular the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, after which the CCS would meet again.

On Monday morning Omar Abdullah met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and urged her that AFSPA should be lifted from the six districts in the state. He also met Chidambaram on Monday morning.

It is learnt that Sonia Gandhi spoke to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh after which the home minister called National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon to discuss the issue.

According to the information available with the government, there are over 800 terrorist cells, which are active in the Valley, and they have the active support of forces controlled by Pakistan.

Menon was credited with the view that this was not the right time to dilute the presence of the army from the state.

This was the same view articulated and expressed by the three service chiefs who met the prime minister. The defence minister and the army personnel are all learnt to be speaking in the same voice, that the morale of the army would be compromised if there was either withdrawal or dilution of the army from the Valley.

While the government continues to be deeply worried at the ongoing violence with Srinagar having been put under curfew, Omar Abdullah is looking at bringing in a measure of credibility and stability to his chief ministership by giving in to the demand for reducing the presence of the army.

That is one of the terms which is being demanded by the Hurriyat and other separatist forces as a precondition to come to the negotiating table.

But sources say that the defence minister, who is standing steadfast with the forces, has refused to concede to the demand of Omar, which is being supported by Chidambaram.

It is learnt that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has also strongly supported Antony and has taken a tough line against both the army withdrawal and the non-governance of Omar Abdullah.

In the statement by the CCS, it was said that while they propose to hold a dialogue with the Kashmir leaders, the issues of both 'trust deficit and governance issue' would be taken up for discussion.

It is for the first time that the issue of governance has been included and this deals directly with Omar's non-governance during the crisis.

Over the last year or so, Omar had been periodically advised by Central leaders to take a number of steps to inject confidence among the people -- like forming a vigilance commission, an accountability commissioner etc -- but he has consistently failed to take any 'confidence-building' steps

While the government wants to send some clear-cut message to the state, for the moment it has failed to do that.

It has also failed to come out with a clear strategy on how to restore peace and order in the state and bring the Kashmiri leaders onto the talks-table to begin a meaningful dialogue with them.

For the moment, the issue of Omar Abdullah continues to hang in the air with the Congress leadership of the view that it would serve no purpose to remove him at the moment as politically it may send the wrong message.

Renu Mittal
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