Antony rules out repealing army's special powers in Kashmir

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 17, 2011 15:20 hrs

New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) Dismissing demands for withdrawing the special powers of the armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir, Defence Minister A.K. Antony Thursday said anti-India forces were continuing to push militants into the state from across the border with Pakistan and asked the armed forces not to relax their guard.

'We cannot take any step that will give an opportunity for them (militants) to succeed (in Jammu and Kashmir). On specific thing (of withdrawal of Armed Forces (special Powers) Act [AFSPA], I do not want any public debate on this,' Antony told reporters when asked about the security situation in the border states and if it was time to relax the controversial law that gave wide powers to the defence forces there.

Several political leaders, including Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, have sought partial withdrawal and dilution of the AFSPA in the recent months and the home ministry has indicated that it was already doing a review of the law that provided sweeping powers to the armed forces.

'Our feed back and the inputs we are getting is not giving us comfort because the attempt to infiltrate (into Jammu and Kashmir) is continuing without any let up. Also, inimical forces from across the border, they are trying to send people to Jammu and Kashmir 24X7,' he said on the sidelines of a defence function here.

Noting that the situation in the state was fast improving 'because of various reasons', he said the security forces 'cannot relax and have to be very vigilant'.

'The situation (in Jammu and Kashmir) is fast improving because of various reasons. We are happy about that. There is a remarkable improvement in the ground situation. Militancy has come down substantially,' he said.

The defence minister warned that the security forces 'have to be very careful and it is not the time for relaxation'.

Antony also noted that he was visiting the northeastern states for two days beginning Friday along with army chief General V.K. Singh and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar to interact with the troops and officers there.

He also noted that General Singh was in Jammu and Kashmir a couple of days ago for a review of the security situation.

On the kidnapping of a district collector in Orissa by Maoists Wednesday, Antony said it was a 'very sad thing'.

But he refused to comment further on the issues as the home ministry has already reacted to the incident.

'Already home ministry has reacted. Only one reaction from the government, so I do not want to go beyond that,' he said.

The Maoists have given a 48-hour ultimatum for the government to halt combing operations against Maoists in Orissa for them to release Malkangiri district collector R. Veenel Krishna, who was abducted from Chitrakonda area along with a junior engineer Pabitra Mohan Majhi. This is the first time the rebels have taken an Indian Administrative Service officer hostage in the state.